If there is one design showcase that has the capacity to overturn misconceptions and stereotypical expectations of what creativity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) looks like, it must be ‘Doha Prints’, an exhibition taking place at Studio 7, in Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD).
‘Doha Prints’ brings over 300 prints designed by 115 artists and designers from 12 different Arab countries under one roof. The exhibition, the first of its kind in Qatar, runs for a month from October 13 to November 13, is free of charge, and is open to the public daily from 10 am to 9 pm, Saturday to Thursday, and from 4 pm to 9 pm on Fridays.
Part of this impressive line-up is alumni, faculty and students from VCUarts Qatar. Shima Aeinehdar, Fatima Abbas, Maryam Al Homaid, Kaltham al Fakhroo, and Latifa Al Sulaiti are the participating VCUarts Qatar designers. Water With Water, popularly known as W/W/W, an experimental publishing project based in Doha and led by VCUarts Qatar faculty member Nathan Ross Davis and alumna Sarah Elawad, is also part of Doha Prints.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Studio 7, and Cairopolitan. Studio 7 is a design concept store situated on the ground floor of the M7 building in MDD, and Cairopolitan is a product design store and art gallery based in Cairo, Egypt.
The curated collection of prints follows Studio 7's mission to identify, promote and celebrate talented artists from Qatar and the wider Arab world.
Asma Derouiche, a VCUarts Qatar MFA in Design alumna, is Studio 7’s Co-Founder and Creative Director. She said, “Design allows us to experience something completely new. It challenges our long-held and deep-seated beliefs and notions of what something should be and presents us with what something can be. It is a circular, dynamic relationship that sees culture play an integral part in creating design, and vice versa, and where seemingly opposing forces of the old and the new at times collide and fuse to trigger seismic changes in each other.
“Doha Prints is a manifestation of this. The creative works you see here show how traditional and experimental forces come together to create something original and unusual, breaking stereotypes in the process.”
The prints on display at Doha Prints benefit from the interior design of Studio 7. Unlike other exhibition spaces where artworks are either placed on pedestals or hung on walls, at Studio 7 they’re suspended from the ceiling using traps and sheets hanging from a fixed grid on the wall, allowing visitors to actually ‘walk through’ them. According to Derouiche, this arrangement ensures the space does not overshadow the artworks themselves. In fact, the only pop of color comes from the canary yellow cloth partitions and trusses that offset the unpainted, rough-hewn walls and floors.
As Derouiche explained further, “We wanted Studio 7 to be seen as a cool space where the designs on display – not the décor – take center stage. The informal ambiance and earthy, unpolished tones offer a blank canvas for designers from different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. Our aim is to make art and design accessible, approachable, and affordable, rather than expensive, intimidating and elitist. We see it as a curated playground where functionality dares to be fun.”
Visitors to Doha Prints can purchase copies of the prints on display, as well as posters, postcards, stickers, and tote bags created by graphic designers from across the Arab world and are part of the exhibition. They can also browse or buy objects from the permanent collection at Studio 7, such as ceramic and clay bowls, bird feeders, handbags, rugs, streetwear, and formal or evening wear.