The Enduring Legacy of Merino

Dubai Opera's Sky Garden exclusively hosts the Loro Piana, in partnership with Tashkeel, Merino wool cloud installation that showcases the World Record Bale alongside a special commission by Calligraffiti artist eL Seed

Under the royal patronage and support of H.H. Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, founder and director of Tashkeel, Italian luxury textiles brand Loro Piana’s The Gift of Kings and The Record Bale, The Noblest of Wools installation comes to Dubai after premiering at Art Basel Hong Kong. Featured alongside a special commission by French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed — known for large-scale ‘Calligraffiti’ works — the immersive installation is created from the world record holding Merino wool in its raw form.

The gentle curves of the monochromatic hanging sculpture are organic, but incite eye play as the finer-than-cashmere wool mirrors cloud’s airiness with its own near-weightlessness. But the exhibition, which features the seven previous world record wools as well as swinging chairs made from it, also showcases these effervescent forms surrounded by a remarkably architectural take. Elegant and structured in appearance, the wool maintains the delicate, natural undertones through which all the pieces dialogue.

Though initially encapsulating an ambiance which visitors can experience through myriad methods, the rare and minimally produced material — derived from Australian and New Zealand Merino sheep — is experienced in a new light through Loro Piana’s commissioning of eL Seed. Engaging his stylistic fusion of past and present by transforming traditional Arabic prose into intricate, abstract calligraphy, eL Seed emphasises the diversity and timelessness of the material. He recontextualises the heavily connoted wool with a subtle fusion of epochs: the work is inspired by a poem by King Alfonso X, the 13th-century Spanish ruler who gave the wool its ‘Merino’ name.

The name it bears now, The Gift of Kings, was elected by Loro Piana from an adjacent tale — following the introduction of the species and its wool to Spain in the eighth century by the Moors, come the 18th century, Spanish kings were presenting Merino sheep as gifts to European royals. The luxuriousness of the wool has been lauded for centuries — the Phoenicians first traded it — and Loro Piana craftspeople have continued to refine the purity and reach of the material through generations of passed-down knowledge.

As a material, the wool may stand alone, but The Gift of Kings and The Record Bale, The Noblest of Wools encapsulates and reinforces the reality that it is a medium that can adopt many forms and visions — from clothing through to contemporary art installations. Quality and innovation meet integrity and tradition in this exhibition, where a chronological and progressive series shares the same space and dialogues seamlessly with the wool’s transformation into a gentle cloud installation and within eL Seed’s conceptual Calligraffiti take on its history. This new, fresh context displays that Merino wool may have been revered for its materiality, but its strength lies ultimately in its enduring adaptability and legacy.

Loro Piana presents The Gift of Kings and The Record Bale, The Noblest of Wools, ran 8-10 November at Dubai Opera Sky Garden