In our latest Design in Belgium article Liz Newmark talks to the founders of Brussels’ premium design fair about the importance of displaying 21st century design.
The capital of Europe abounds with exhibitions dedicated to art and photography and with Design September popular for years, interior and urban design is getting a look in too. With Covid-19 rules finally easing, jewellery makers are also keen to make their mark, as the recent Brussels Jewellery Week made clear. But there is still a lack of opportunity for designers to promote regular, functional but also beautiful objects.
“COLLECTIBLE was set up in 2018 to fill a gap in the market,” Paris-based art and design consultant Clélie Debehault and Brussels and Rotterdam-based international artistic director Liv Vaisberg, the founders of the collectors’ fair, tell Together.
“A lot of designers are making works that are unique, on commission or in very small editions. They don’t fit in the regular circuit of product design nor in the art market because they are functional objects. So we decided to set up a fair to show a broad audience that instead of mass-produced furniture and objects, you can also fit your house with very personal objects.”
Breaking away from the traditional fair format, COLLECTIBLE offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in an open and integrated space where galleries, design studios and foundations come together. The founders also want to position Belgium as a place for innovation and a vibrant international design destination.
This year’s international fair for collectible design, which takes place 20 to 22 May, brings together more than 70 participants, established and emerging galleries, design studios, iconic houses and independent designers.
Muller Van Severen for example will premiere ‘frames’, a collection of wall sculptures that emerge from a flat plate, connecting reality and the imaginary. The first furniture collection by Belgian interior designer Victoria Maria Geyer will be shown in a worldwide avant-première and in the main section you will discover the latest creations by Belgian designers Ben Storms, Maarten De Ceulaer and Xavier Lust.
“We tailor our fair every year to the scene, to the market and to the demands of our exhibitors,” the founders say. “We want to stay relevant, not use old ready-made recipes, anticipate the future and keep expanding abroad with our COLLECTIBLE Curated (we did Paris twice and have new plans abroad).”
And to mark its fifth anniversary, this year COLLECTIBLE launches ‘The Editors’, a new section showcasing pioneering and niche design labels and the most-avant garde design editors of the 2020s. LOMM Edition (Paris) for example is a charming collaboration presenting elegant and inventive furniture created by Odile Mir in the 1970s and reshaped by her granddaughter Léonie Alma Mason today.
Another innovation is the new design label 13Desserts (Hyères and Paris) with its latest colourful furniture installation by French designers Thomas Defour and Clement Rougelot.
For its 2022 edition, Curated will present ESCAPISM, imagined by Rotterdam-based curator Berry Dijkstra as “a utopian journey… with colourful perspectives and fresh ideas”. It will also introduce TENSION, conceived by New York-based curator, writer and entrepreneur Julia Haney Montanez as a show exploring the impact of change on designers world-wide.
Founders Debehault and Vaisberg tell Together that art, sculpture and photography will not get a look in however: “We are a fair dedicated to collectible design, so we are only showing furniture and other functional objects like candles and mirrors. We do not do art, sculpture or photography unless they are functional.
“We also do no vintage, no historical, no brands. The reason being is that we want to support this type of design, collectible design, design you want to cherish and pass on for years. We also want to support the current creation and not the past. A piece needs to be good, tell a story or have stand out use of material; limited edition or unique and contemporary.”
Another important aim of the founders is to promote Belgian designers and at least 44 exhibitors create products ‘made in Belgium’. In addition, COLLECTIBLE has invited five young Belgian designers to exhibit at Campari’s booth. Pierre de Valck, Daan de Wit, Arnaud Eubelen, Roxane Lahidji and Orson Oxo Van Beek are all challenging the status of furniture making today. In the same vein as LOMM edition, their objects are meant to be collected and passed from generation to generation as well as carrying their author’s voice.
Last but not least, the Design Museum Brussels – a wonderful institution minutes from the Atomium currently featuring a fascinating exhibition about French architect le Corbusier-influenced Charlotte Perriand, and the centre d’innovation et de design (CID) Grand Hornu will show part of their collections together. The Design Museum Gent – with a world renowned collection of furniture from the Baroque to Bauhaus, Rococo to Rietveld and beyond – will show works related to their future material library.
Most of all, the COLLECTIBLE founders want to put more emphasis on collectible design – and they urge “anyone excited by design, art and architecture, going from enthusiast to professional interior architects or collectors,” to visit this month’s show at the Vanderborght centre, a few minutes’ walk from Brussels Central Station.
Just a few of the stunning, stand-out products I was able to see in preview include flower chairs, moon rugs, womb lamps, gothic black furniture, an Atlas poof and a flying chair fit for a witch.
Indeed, even the entrance to the show highlighting the best in collectible design is exciting. French architect Paul Cournet, who partners with Cooloo – an ecological foam and coating company, will transform the public space of the building with foam elements made entirely out of recycled tennis balls released for the first time at COLLECTIBLE 2022.