When I was asked to write an op-ed about the design scene in the Middle East the first thing I thought about was how my own personal experience in the region has shaped my views on the Middle East throughout the years. It all started ten years ago when I discovered the city of Beirut which then led me to open Carwan Gallery two years later. Carwan was the first gallery presenting collectible design in the region and everything was new, not only to myself, but to the crowd around me, eager to create something fresh and to revolutionise the international design scene. It was through this wave of optimism that everything started to take a definitive shape, creating a space for collectible design in an ever-changing world.
Let’s start with the basics: What is collectible design? What does it mean to collect design? That said, these are two most difficult questions to answer yet also the most simple. I’ve been trying to find the perfect response to these both over multiple design projects I’ve done in the Middle East, Europe and the US. Design today has many meanings. At its core design is a form of expression. A designer, architect or artist chooses the idea of how an object expresses a concept or personal research in a functional manner.
I consider collectible design to lean towards the idea of functional art - a reference to aesthetic objects that serve utilitarian purposes, encompassing everything from furniture and lighting to ceramics and even books. More and more art collectors have begun to explore design with excitement and they feel, in the realm of design, that there is much less speculation than in the art world.
Collecting design means that you must be a visionary. The reality is that the design market doesn’t grow exponentially in terms of value and most of the collectors in this field are doing it primarily for themselves, almost like an act of intellectual snobbism. It’s a space to explore a niche where very few people have been, especially in the Middle East. The results, however, are incredible I must say. Once one jumps into the idea of collecting design, it is a lifechanging moment. Everyday becomes special because you evolve in a special environment and you understand the meaning of the designers, the craftsmanship and materials involved behind the objects created. One can commission breath-taking objects tailor-made for their own everyday moments. And this could be a larger definition of design: To live in harmony with your environment. This is what makes me so passionate about design. It’s not a painting that you revere on a wall, but a true interactive and tactile world that opens up to you.