East Went Thataway, West
Lebanon is in the throes of a veritable design boom. The tiny Mediterranean country has longed punched above its weight in terms of design, producing the likes of Nada Debs and Karen Chekerdjian, and laying claim to Carwan gallery. This year, three of Lebanon’s emerging design talents are featuring their wares at Design Miami/, on view December 6–9, as part of the House of Today showcase. “It feels right to put these designers forward, to show their work and introduce them to a new audience,” says Cherine Magrabi Tayeb, curator and founder of House of Today.
House of Today is a nonprofit organization that highlights Lebanese talent with the aim to fund scholarships for promising young designers. “I wanted to shed light on the pool of talent we have in Lebanon,” says Tayeb, “and on our creativity.” While she’s already staged three high-profile biennial exhibitions in Beirut (beginning in 2012) and showed design pieces from House of Today’s second biennial in Paris, London, and Milan, DesignMiami/ marks Tayeb’s first foray across the Atlantic. “We felt that we wanted to tap into a different market,” she says, “and Miami made a lot of sense.”
The Miami show, titled, Construction Deconstruction, includes works by Khaled El Mays, Rami Dalle, and Sayar & Garibeh—with each offering a unique take on the themes of struggle and identity, which have come to define the Lebanese way of life. El Mays, who runs his own atelier in Beirut, created two pieces for DesignMiami/, Escort of the Night and Mr. Brain, both made of French rattan and oak. The first can function as a nightstand or side table, and the second is a hollow lamp that feels contemporary yet harks back to the past. In both cases, the layering of materials appears to reflect Lebanon’s own complexity—precariously balanced between East and West, forever torn between modernity and tradition. “Khaled translated Lebanese heritage into something modern,” says Tayeb.
Design duo Stephanie Sayar and Charbel Gharibeh, who recently set up their Beirut studio, are featuring the MOM bedside table, which consists of a circular base of cast foam topped with a transparent glass cabinet. Dangling pearl-shaped orbs provide a window to the past, referencing Lebanon’s bygone golden era. Their other piece, the Echo mirror, also has a foam base on which an affixed mirror appears to float. “The happiness in their work expresses the positive light that we want to shed on Lebanon,” explains Tayeb.
Dalle’s installation, Construction Deconstruction, from which the exhibit borrows its name, overtakes House of Today’s booth. A collector, designer, and artist, Dalle has long been fascinated with disappearing crafts, particularly those of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Deconstructed ceramic plates—each embossed with fragments from ancient Lebanese artifacts, such as broken tiles or wall carvings—populate the booth’s walls, becoming a kind of ceramic canvas linked to the country’s past. By using items from Lebanon’s collective memory, Dalle provides a personal and contemporary portrait of his multilayered country.