Beirut calling: Jungle Protocol
On until 29 December, at House of Today in Beirut, Lebanon.
The name of this third design biennial may deeply resonate in the ears of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees that Lebanon has welcomed in the past year – a significant number in relation to its population of 4.3 million, excluding the diaspora that is estimated to be between 11 and 14 million, and possibly more, according to various sources.
But far from being an oxymoron and despite the luxury limited-edition pieces on show/on sale at Le Yacht Club in Beirut until the end of the month, House of Today – a non-profit organisation founded in 2012 by businesswoman and patron Cherine Magrabi Tayeb – can pride itself in actively supporting and promoting young and emerging local designers in a non-industrial, primarily craft-led context. Echoing the political situation in the Middle-East and, of course, the unstable Lebanese region, the curatorial committee has invited designers to reflect on their own traditions and to open their eyes to other cultures. “Underneath a veneer of chaos and differences, there’s an underlying order that binds us all together: it’s called the Jungle Protocol.”
True to its mission of being the first Lebanese design incubator, House of Today has definitely put the design discipline and local creativity in the international media spotlight. This third iteration of the biennial has also cleverly targeted wealthy design collectors, notably those belonging to the diaspora – the people who fly back to Beirut each year during the festive break. On the opening night of the exhibition, most of the 18 pieces were sold, including a series of marble and polished brass tables designed by Stephanie Sayar and Charbel Garibeh priced at $14,350 each.
Positioning itself as a unique platform and business model, House of Today not only allows the 22 designers to receive 50% or 70% of the sale (the percent being related to whether they have produced the piece themselves or not) but also uses part of its profit to fund a scholarship programme that provides talented students that have financial constraints the opportunity to study at the best local and international schools. With a sharp awareness that limited-edition design may nevertheless frustrate design lovers at large, House of Today has for the first time initiated a collaboration with The Shop. Acting as guest curator, Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, co-founder and art director at Carwan Gallery, has commissioned 18 Lebanese designers, including names such as Carlo & Mary-Lynn Massoud, Studio 200 grs., and GHAITH&JAD. In an edgy update of Lebanese expertise in both craft and commerce, all of them have designed affordable small objects and accessories that are already accessible online worldwide.