UnMasked hosted at Dubai's AlSerkal Avenue

During a time when coronavirus restrictions continue to place challenges on physical interaction, third generation Lebanese carpet gallery Iwan Maktabi, revered for its innovative carpets bridging the worlds of art, design and architecture, will stage an exhibition in Alserkal Avenue showcasing the work of seven prominent Lebanese creatives. Titled Un(Masked), the exhibition, which opens on 22 March, is dedicated to the idea of de-confining—of people coming out of the confinement that has gripped the world over the past year in order to enjoy physically beautiful works of art and design.


The ground-breaking exhibition is the first of its kind in Dubai to marry the worlds of art, design and furniture through works entirely made by artists based in Lebanon. On view at warehouse #82 in Alserkal, the show will highlight the latest IWAN MAKTABI x Collection, an ongoing project involving a range of architects, designers and artists who have collaborated with Iwan Maktabi on limited edition carpets. These include David/Nicolas, Georges Mohasseb and Kareen Asli, Rola Salamoun, Nadine Kanso, Hala Matta, Omar Shakil and Gregory Gatserelia.


“Every year, we show the latest creations made by the designers who contribute to our IWAN MAKTABI x project,” said Mohamed Maktabi, co-founder of Iwan Maktabi. “This year, the selection is quite rich and varied. We chose the designers based on our conviction that these talents have something new and different to say and we gave them the medium of carpets to say it with. As for the objects in the exhibition that are not carpets, I always had a deep and wide interest in a variety of fields, art, design, and antiques, and I feel it is appropriate to show them side by side”


Un(Masked) is also staged in collaboration with Beirut-based art gallery Saleh Barakat Gallery and House of Today, a platform founded by Chirine Magrabi for Lebanese architects and designers. Barakat has curated a selection of artworks that have been meticulously chosen to blend with the collectible carpets of Iwan Maktabi as well as selected furniture. The resulting exhibition offers a comprehensive showcase of art and design seamlessly presented to highlight the creative talents of Lebanon today. The artists presented by Saleh Barakat Gallery include Hala Shoukair, Fadia Haddad, Samir Sayegh, Tagreed Darghouth and Bassam Kawagi—all from Lebanon.


Iwan Maktabi is also staging the exhibition just over seven months since the Beirut explosions rocked the city that the third generation carpet gallery has long called home. As the situation in Lebanon worsens and the country plummets into further literal and figurative darkness, an exhibition such as this that shines a light on the country’s creative talents is more than ever crucial to stage—even outside of Lebanon.


“It is easy to succumb to the defeatist atmosphere currently around us: a global pandemic that is affecting the lives of individuals across the globe that has caused a disruption of all public activities and an explosion that destroys the capital city we live in, and has affected our homes and our work space,” said Mohamed Maktabi. “Our survival instincts have kicked in and we must realize that life goes on and that there is hope. This exhibition is a form of hope, like springtime after a cold winter, and rebuilding after a deadly explosion. Un(masked) is a crucial exhibition for us. We at Iwan Maktabi will continue to do what we know best and that means bringing beautiful objects to the people around us.”


“Iwan Maktabi has been working with Lebanese designers since 2016, so it is only natural now that this collaboration has become mature to exhibit outside Beirut,” said Managing Director of Iwan Maktabi, Chirine Maktabi. “Because of the unprecedented times that the world is passing through, especially Lebanon, we need show and prove to the world and to ourselves that we are still “alive.” At Iwan Maktabi it is in our genes to create, renovate and innovate regardless of the destruction around us.”  


For the participating artists, the opportunity to show their work in Un(Masked) has been pivotal during such a challenging time for Lebanon and the world.


Beirut-based designer Roula Salamoun’s carpet entitled Strata references a topography that draws on both architecture and nature. The piece was inspired by the hills and cities of Nepal after a trip to Kathmandu with the Maktabi family.


“Iwan Maktabi gave me a wonderful opportunity to show several series of my work during this exhibition, it feels like an important milestone to be able to show them together out of Beirut, where they were conceived,” said participating designer Roula Saloumoun. “With the Beirut Blast which made a particularly difficult year and a half even more difficult, this exhibition is a great opportunity to reconnect with the world, and share the great talent that we have in Lebanon.”


Studio Manda by Georges Mohasseb, also based in Beirut, is presenting a carpet titled Borderless. The piece was inspired by the designer’s lighting suspension called Urban, which is made out of staples used to demonstrate the grid of the city, its linear and orthogonal shape and the harmony of its geometries.


“The exhibition comes at a very particular turning point,” said Mohasseb. “It brings hope back and highlights our vibrant artistic scene, especially since the arts and culture of Lebanon have greatly suffered since the Beirut’s blast, the disastrous economic crisis as well as the global pandemic.”