“I’ve DJ’d for 25 years of my life, getting on airplanes, going to play for people all over the world. So, at the beginning of the pandemic, I'm not going to lie, when everything slowed down, I was like, "Oh, this is nice to be in the same bed for a week", but it's really nice to be back. This is my second DJ gig [since the pandemic]. So please forgive any train wreck mixes or anything like that, but I've been practicing in my room and I hope not to suck.”
So said Mark Ronson — the Grammy- and Oscar-winning musician, songwriter and DJ — during a one-hour conversation on stage at Semi Permanent Middle East. And as those who turned out to Ronson’s gig later that night at our official opening party can attest, suck he certainly did not.
After nearly two years in which the world slowed to a halt in response to the global pandemic, Semi Permanent made its debut in the Middle East in October 2021, the first event of its kind to bring the region’s creative-minded community back together. But this was Semi Permanent like never before: while still comprising a stellar talks program — featuring the likes of illustrator Nourie Flayhan, architect Oana Stanescu, photographer Ismail Zaidy and artist Daniel Arsham — the event model was completely reimagined.
At Manarat al Saadiyat, in Abu Dhabi’s cultural district, Semi Permanent Middle East was brought to life with art exhibitions (La Rosa Social Club featured Ryan McGinley, Kim Gordon, Barry McGee and, in an exclusive world-first, the last-ever Raymond Pettibon painting from the artist’s famed ‘Wave’ series) and installations (a first-in-region showing of Refik Anadol’s epic-scale Quantum Memories, as well as Tom Sachs’ coffee cart, and a showcase of Haydenshapes’ marble-effect surfboards).
The Flower Shop, the Lower East Side bar and restaurant, hosted its first pop-up experience outside of the US, quite literally packing up its posters and pool tables to authentically recreate the New York experience, replete with its Michelin-commended burger. “Abu Dhabi is really foreign to both of us but we're going to try and bring our vibe and the visceral feeling of The Flower Shop along with a taste of our menu and food that’s earned us and our chef Michael Hamilton recognition from the Michelin Guide,” explained Ronnie Flynn, one-half of the business with partner, Dylan Hales. “As far as the music and decor goes, people really got a sense of what The Flower Shop is physically like. It was a place that’s a bit of an escape to meet someone new and discuss whatever you’ve just seen or heard at Semi Permanent.”
Other highlights included a new-season collection launch by Australian jewellery and lifestyle designer Lucy Folk, the screening of MAU, a feature-length documentary about design visionary Bruce Mau, a fleet of Mini cars wrapped in our signature gradient colour palette, and an interactive workshop station by local craft community House of Artisans.
Semi Permanent Middle East will return in 2022. Stay tuned for more details.