Florence Vial’s abaya sculpture highlights the importance of recycling

The artist who created the Al Ness Abaya out of Nespresso pods tells us about the inspiration behind her creation.
Al Ness Abaya sculpture at Etihad Modern Art Gallery is made entirely from Nespresso pods. Lee Hoagland / The National
Al Ness Abaya sculpture at Etihad Modern Art Gallery is made entirely from Nespresso pods. Lee Hoagland / The National

But look closely and you will see that its surface is covered with hundreds – perhaps more than a 1,000 – empty Nespresso containers. Vial lost count of how many pods she used during the three months she spent collecting them in 2011.

Nespresso, the popular at-home espresso machine brand, has been taking back used pods for recycling for a year now at its Abu Dhabi and Dubai stores. However, the French artist, who spent four years living in the UAE before returning home, explained that making a comment on recycling was only part of her motivation in creating the piece.

“When I first arrived in Dubai, I was a bit lost and at that time everything was big and shiny and very attractive so I somehow related the Nespresso caps with that. They are brightly coloured, metallic and commercially attractive,” she says. “Recycling was also new in Dubai so I decided to talk about that issue.”

After deciding on the material, Vial went to the Nespresso shop in Dubai and asked if she could collect the empty capsules. She visited regularly and took the bags of material back to her studio where she cleaned the pods inside and out.

Then she came up with the design for the abaya – black on the outside but inside, many different colours would be seen in waves. Each one is stuck on a foam base with sticks.

“I was very much inspired by the women of the UAE,” she says. “They wear the black abayas but underneath they are very colourful. Also as a European, it was important to talk about the fact that women are always women, no matter what culture they come from. The movement, grace and poise of a woman walking in an abaya is something beautiful and I wanted to capture that in the material of the Nespresso pods, which I think is also really classy.”

Al Ness Abaya was completed in 2011 and acquired the following year by Etihad Modern Art Gallery in Abu Dhabi.

When the gallery opened in 2013, a large part of its philosophy was of recycling and using found materials – making Al Ness Abaya an ideal ­acquisition.

“I am really happy that it is still making an impact,” says Vial. “For me it was a really different project so I didn’t know how people would respond. I am quite proud that it is a project that is still interesting to the ­audience.”


Published: November 29, 2014 04:00 AM


Editor's Picks
Sign up to:

* Please select one