Turkish artist/designer Dice Kayek wins third biennial Jameel Prize with contemporary fashion designs, at V&A London, until 21 April 2014.

£25,000 for half a dress but double the volume on the sleeves

Ece and Ayse Ege, the sisters behind the Turkish fashion house Dice Kayek, won the big prize of £25 grand for ‘Istanbul Contrast’, a trio of striking garments “definitely not for everyday wear” (unless you’re, maybe, Lady Gaga…) which are from their 2010 Spring/Summer collection. To see some of their clothes on live models, check out the short (and somewhat bizarre) video “Dice Kayek Blue” by Marie Schuller [YouTube, 5:25].

Dice Kacek, 'Istanbul Contrast', 2010, fashions. Image courtesy vam.ac.uk.
Dice Kayek, ‘Istanbul Contrast’, 2010, fashions. Image courtesy vam.ac.uk.

Quirky and quixotic interior furnishings

Four of the ten short-listed artists came up with something carpet-y in the Jameel Prize, including:

Faig Ahmed’s series of wonky woollen hand-woven shags that seem to have been Photoshopped whilst still on the loom (one of my favourite items in the room),

Nada Debs
Nada Debs, ‘Concrete Carpet’, 2010, concrete and mother of pearl inlay.

a set of tatami-style mats that fit together as a room-filling “Concrete Carpet” by Lebanese designer Nada Debs,

Rahul Jain
Rahul Jain, ‘The snow leopard’, 2007, silk, silver and gilded silver thread.

a pair of woven silk tapestries by Rahul Jain, a textile designer and historian from India,

and the five-spice rug called “Beiti [My home]” by Laurent Mareschal, which disappears by bits every time someone exhales half-way near it.

Arabic calligraphy, re-invented

Of course, as one might anticipate from an exhibition of Islamic arts, there are works inspired by the written word:

And then there’s the unexpected calligraphy-based piece, part of another installation by Mounir Fatmi entitled “Modern Times: A History of the Machine“, projected on the wall 20 feet wide, in which the gear-wheels are actually endlessly spinning designs of Arabic phrases. Through sound and moving image, the piece refers to “…ramshackle cities [in the Middle East that] grow without stopping, while prestige building projects are commissioned on an inhuman scale as displays of power.

Mounir Fatmi
Mounir Fatmi, ‘Told/Untold/Retold’, 2009-2010, installation and video projection, as seen in Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha. Image courtesy mounirfatmi.com

Don’t forget accessories to go with the outfit

The final pieces in this year’s Jameel Prize are the result of a collaborative project between artist/designer Florie Salnot and UK-based charity organisation Sandblast Arts. Cases of intricate necklaces designed by Salnot and crafted by women of tribes in the Western Sahara round out the show, and they seem the perfect accompaniment to Dice Kayek’s fashions displayed nearby. By the way, the “gold” ornaments made by North African Saharawi refugees come from discarded plastic bottles which are painted gold before they are moulded with hot sand, finely carved by hand and assembled into dramatic and beautiful jewellery.

This exhibition is well worth a spare 10 minutes, especially if you’re already in the V&A and want to see how artists and designers from the Middle East and Asia subvert traditional Islamic arts into something delightfully contemporary. Art reviewer for The Guardian Jonathan Jones writes, “art and design ‘inspired by Islamic tradition’ might seem to be inherently limiting its own field…and yet the terrific art here proves the Jameel prize is really on to something.” I’m with Jones on this one!

10 short-listed artists for the Jameel Prize 3 are: Faig Ahmed, Nada Debs, Mounir Fatmi, Rahul Jain, Dice Kayek, Waqas Khan, Laurent Mareschal, Nasser Al-Salem, Florie Salnot, Pascal Zoghbi


More links and information

Exhibition details: Jameel Prize 3 exhibition is on at the V&A, South Kensington, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL from 11 December 2013 thru 21 April 2014. Free admission. Victoria_Albert_Pink_logo

Editor’s note: Spelling error(s) corrected; updated links to each artist’s name (07/04/2014)