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Collectible Fair Brussels 21st Century Collectable Design under the spotlight

The first edition of Collectible Fair Brussels 21st Century Collectable Design will run from 7 to 11 March at in the Vanderborght building in Brussels.

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Text by Marie Honnay

The first Collectible, a fair dedicated to galleries and designers specialising in the art and design of the 21st century, aims to offer a new and interactive experience to visitors and collectors alike. TLMag interviews co-organiser Clélie Debelhaut, who works in tandem with Liv Vaisberg, both co-founders of this innovative event.

TLmag: Launching a new fair is a challenge. What motivated you to get started?

Clélie Debelhaut: Liv and I did not want to create a concept that had been seen before. Our goal was to inject a bit of fresh air into the calendar of art and design events scheduled in the capital and internationally. We want to give new perspectives to the participants – galleries, designers and the media – and to revise the visitor experience by moving away from the codes of the existing fairs in this sector, which too often mix vintage design with current, more experimental designs.

TLmag: Can you give us more details on your approach?

C.D.: We don’t want a traditional, linear itinerary, but a real stroll to discover the universe of the exhibitors. We wanted to open the fair not only to designers and galleries, but also to magazines and museums that, unlike at other fairs, will not just represent one title or one institution. We propose that they present a key piece or conceptual project that they are keen to champion.

TLmag: This innovative approach is strongly linked to the paths each of you has followed. Give us a quick summary.

C.D.: Liv is Franco-Dutch, and now lives in Antwerp. She is a lawyer by training and an expert in copyright law, and organised, amongst others, the launch of the Independent Art Fair, the Brussels arm of the eponymous American fair which has been held for three years during Art Brussels. She also initiated Complex, a customised concierge service linked to the art market. As for me, I am Belgian. I have a degree in art history from ULB, I was associate director of the Daniel Templon gallery in Paris. I had the opportunity to develop special relationships with the artists. Thereafter, I was invited to represent an American platform for online art sales. This is how I was able to meet the players in the design field. I also saw that Brussels clearly lacked an event linked to collectible design.

TLmag: What is the position of Brussels, and of Belgium, in this fast-growing market?

C.D.: As the capital of Europe, Brussels is an indisputable capital. One of the advantages of the city, in addition to its accessibility from Paris and London, is the incredible spaces that are still available for organising cultural events such as Collectible. The Vanderborght building, which we have chosen for this first edition, offers 4,600 meters squared of space over 6 floors, in the middle of the city, just steps away from the Grand-Place. The sun-filled atrium lets us create a unique itinerary. Our fair is visited like an exhibition. On the collector side, we have also noted a real interest by Belgians in contemporary design. In Belgium, the public is not blocked by cultural a priori. Belgians have a sense of humour and non-conformity that pushes them towards discovery.

TLmag: The public often associates design with pieces from the 20th century (Prouvé, Perriand, Eames…). What characterises design in the 21st century?

C.D. : We are only in 2018, so it is dangerous at this stage to try to identify actual orientations. What we can already see is a return to the human, to what constitutes the sensitivity of our relationship with an object. The collector of design pieces is certainly less concerned with functionality. Design of collectibles touches on the context of art and of exclusive items that are one-off or limited pieces, which could be confusing at first glance. I also think that the 21st century will not be about big, established style lines, but rather about several styles that work together harmoniously.

TLmag: What can we expect from this first edition of Collectible?

C.D.: The world of contemporary design is still very hazy. We want to encourage interactions and synergies, and to develop a fluid network between the public and the exhibitors, but also to plunge the visitor into a specific scenography by Richard Venlet, that is conducive to discovery and a unique interpretation of the space. Our goal is also educational. We wanted to get away from the traditional conference setup, in order to offer truly interactive roundtables. We have also developed a partnership with culinary design agency La Bouche which will create for us a very particular scenography in our dining area.

TLmag:  Tell us about the role of your selection committee.

C.D. : By choosing  Tony Chambers, director of the magazine Wallpaper and a big promoter of contemporary design on the international level, as well as Belgian Jan Boelen, artistic director of Z33 in Hasselt and Luma in Arles, Maria Cristina Didero, an independent curator based in Milan who shares our interest in the conceptual aspect of contemporary design, and Pascale Mussard, director of Hermès/petit h, a project that focused on the environmental and luxury aspect of design, we have opted for a committee that can validate the guiding principle of the event by assuring a qualitative content. The enthusiasm of the selection committee gives credibility to our project by allowing us to blend the networks – which is one of our primary goals.

Collectible fair of 21st century design at Vanderborght building in Brussels © Hugard and Vanoverschelde
Collectible fair of 21st century design at Vanderborght building in Brussels © Hugard and Vanoverschelde
Spazio Nobile, Kustaa Saksi_ in the Fish Trap, 2013, © Jussi Tiainen
Spazio Nobile, Kustaa Saksi_ in the Fish Trap, 2013, © Jussi Tiainen
Adorno, Berlin, Collection, William Bagnoli
Mobilab Gallery, A Rovero happy tables
Atelier Jespers, Table Maarten Stuer Kolkhoze fr
Atelier Jespers, Table Maarten Stuer Kolkhoze fr
Ben Storms, InHale red belgian marble copper support, © Filip Dujardin
Ben Storms, InHale red belgian marble copper support, © Filip Dujardin
Lionel Jadot, LJ5, Rotating Lamp Bonzai Sound © Serge Anton
Lionel Jadot, LJ5, Rotating Lamp Bonzai Sound © Serge Anton
Sebastien Caporusso
Sebastien Caporusso
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