Le­vant is Ris­ing

The Beirut De­sign Fair aims to put Le­banese de­sign on the in­ter­na­tional map and show that cre­ativ­ity is thriv­ing de­spite the coun­try’s mul­ti­tude of chal­lenges.

Bespoke - - LIVING -

Beirut has al­ways been a lively Mediter­ranean nu­cleus of in­no­va­tion but th­ese days it seems there's a de­sign event al­most ev­ery other week. From the Beirut De­sign Week, House of To­day and De­signer’s Week, of­fi­cial records show an av­er­age of around 30 such goings-on a year. So, when word had it some­thing called Beirut De­sign Fair was be­ing launched this Septem­ber, you can imag­ine there was a fair amount of scep­ti­cism. “Beirut is an ex­cep­tional place,” ex­plains Guil­laume Taslé d'héliand, Founder and Di­rec­tor of Beirut De­sign Fair (BDF). “The level of cul­ture, his­tory and in­tel­li­gence makes it unique, which is why it is be­ing watched very closely by rest of the world.” In real terms, the dec­o­ra­tive arts mar­ket in Le­banon is es­ti­mated to be worth 600 mil­lion USD, which is a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the GDP and a strong driver for any­one look­ing to cap­i­talise on the in­dus­try. The coun­try has been renowned for thou­sands of years for its metal, ce­ramic, glass and wood­work ar­ti­sans but work has dwin­dled in re­cent decades. The hope is that, as de­sign­ers grow, ar­ti­sans will progress, mul­ti­ply and adapt their skills to cur­rent trends while pre­serv­ing tra­di­tional crafts­man­ship. The BDF be­lieves the an­swer to help­ing those de­sign­ers grow is a ro­bust, cred­i­ble and in­ter­na­tional plat­form. As such, in or­der to raise the bar on a mar­ket that has some­what stalled, Guil­laume Taslé d'héliand and his co-founder and head of ex­hibitor re­la­tions, Hala Moubarak, have as­sem­bled an im­pres­sive in­ter­na­tional se­lec­tion com­mit­tee head­lined by Paris-based Aline Amar d’am­man, who served as Artis­tic Di­rec­tor for the re­cent renovation of the Hô­tel de Cril­lon in Paris and col­lab­o­rated with Karl Lagerfeld on the ho­tel’s lux­u­ri­ous Les Grands Ap­parte­ments, which he dec­o­rated. “They’ll be look­ing for time­less ob­jects and fur­ni­ture,” ex­plains Taslé d'héliand of the process for choos­ing the 40-odd de­sign­ers and gal­leries who will be show­ing ei­ther con­tem­po­rary or vin­tage fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tive ob­jects. There will also be ‘Spot On’, an area ded­i­cated to emerg­ing tal­ent, where novice de­sign­ers will have the op­por­tu­nity to show one or two prod­ucts they are ex­per­i­ment­ing with. “The aim is to es­tab­lish new codes, norms and ways to live,” ex­plains Taslé d'héliand. Fur­ther­more, in the spirit of in­no­va­tion, the buzz-wor­thy Big Voxel is go­ing to be brought in. The ma­chine, which is MENA’S big­gest 3-D printer (note: it is Made in Le­banon), is named af­ter “vox­els” (pix­els in three di­men­sions) and is the brain­child of architect Guil­laume Cré­doz and en­gi­neer Nareg Karaogh­la­nian. Each day, one full-scale chair will be pro­duced live, un­til all four are auc­tioned on the fi­nal day of the fair. While con­tem­plat­ing the fu­ture of de­sign, vis­i­tors will have an op­por­tu­nity to con­nect with an­cient his­tory and nib­ble on Le­banese good­ies at The Ban­quet, set on a 8 me­tre-long ta­ble made from a sin­gle slice of a Kauri tree that fell 50,000 years ago in New Zealand, dur­ing the glacial era. Crafted and de­signed by

Yew Stu­dio (one of the many lo­cal ex­hibitors), the awe-in­spir­ing piece spent one year dry­ing in a spe­cial fa­cil­ity in the United States be­fore it was brought back to Le­banon four years ago. “It would be ideal for sign­ing a treaty,” says Taslé d'héliand per­haps hop­ing the coun­try’s politi­cians would fa­cil­i­tate the ex­port and growth of the de­sign in­dus­try by sign­ing ad­van­ta­geous trade agree­ments be­tween Le­banon and the rest of the world. “Cur­rently, if a de­signer wants to ex­port his prod­ucts to ex­hibit them abroad, he has to pay du­ties when he brings them back. That’s sim­ply ridicu­lous,” says Yasser Akkaoui, who serves as the fair’s Strat­egy Ad­vi­sor. De­spite the coun­try’s dated and pro­hib­i­tive tax laws, there’s talk of an ex­hibit ded­i­cated to Le­banese de­sign­ers at next year’s Mai­son et Ob­jet in Paris (the in­dus­try’s gold stan­dard when it comes to events), fur­ther help­ing to raise the in­dus­try’s pro­file. And though it’s a start-up of sorts, Beirut De­sign Fair is bank­ing on cap­tur­ing a size­able share of the num­ber of the vis­i­tors to the Beirut Art Fair (which last year to­talled 23,000 peo­ple). It is also sched­uled to over­lap with the BAF and is strate­gi­cally lo­cated within the same ex­hi­bi­tion venue, so as to give it a built-in au­di­ence from the get-go. The founders of BDF have a gen­uine be­lief that Le­banon's cre­ative tal­ent has global ap­peal and with the right col­lec­tive strat­egy, the Made in Le­banon la­bel can be­come a glob­ally recog­nised sym­bol of qual­ity. “Le­banese are prob­lem solvers,” re­marks Taslé d'héliand, "and this is the essence of de­sign.”

Left: 'Mir­ror, Mir­ror on the Wall' is an in­stal­la­tion for Mai­son Rabih Kay­rouz, cre­ated by Wis­sam Moubarak and Nis­rine Nasr of Haw­ini, a de­sign col­lec­tive founded in 2010. Above left: Carla Baz' Oys­ter brass and blown glass light is in­spired by a pearl...

Below: 'Galet' by Ge­orges Mo­has­seb, a bench in Amer­i­can wal­nut and stat­u­ario mar­ble. (Cour­tesy of Car­wan Gallery.)

Left: 'Charles Bar' by Stu­dio A, is part of the Black & Gold col­lec­tion by architect Ah­mad Bazazo.

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