Design fair: COLLECTIBLE

March 9th, 2023
Written by:
Nikolai Kotlarczyk

Liv Vaisberg and Clélie Debehault, founders of COLLECTIBLE. Photo Credit: Eva Donckers.

Currently showing the sixth edition of their design fair COLLECTIBLE, founders Liv Vaisberg and Clélie Debehault have seen their unique offering within the global design calendar grow with each edition. Championing young and emerging designers, craftspeople and galleries has been a driving force that is both opening up, and bringing together a community of like-minded creatives and collectors. We chatted with the COLLECTIBLE founders to hear their take on the contemporary design landscape today, and where it might be headed into the future.

Working from various locations within central Europe – Clélie between Paris and Brussels, Liv in Rotterdam by way of Antwerp, the duo head up a team of people spread across these locations that help imbue COLLECTIBLE with a spirit that is not solely defined by its Brussels location. Whilst physically apart for most of the year, Clélie and Liv talk everyday and share a direction and passion that is evident within their meticulously curated offering. The importance of how the fair is presented and viewed has been a priority for the duo since its inception, given the often overlooked nature of contemporary collectible design alongside historical pieces and high art. Liv Vaisberg and Clélie Debehault explain:

“It is true that unlike most fairs, we have really curated our fair. For us the common thread is functionality. Not necessarily in the end result but in the process. It is important for us to highlight to collectors that it is not because a piece is functional that it has less value than art. We present and compose the fair as an experimental and contemporary “art fair” to highlight that collectible design is just as valuable. Collectible, contemporary unique pieces and limited editions remain a niche, but we think it represents the most exciting and innovative part of design.”

TABLEAU’s exhibition at COLLECTIBLE 2023. Photo courtesy of TABLEAU.
Superbloom 02 by Pettersen & Hein. On show at COLLECTIBLE 2023 with TABLEAU. Photo Credit: Anders Sune Berg.

As COLLECTIBLE has grown and established itself within the design community, so too have the galleries and creatives that showcase their work in Brussels each year. With a platform dedicated to works made today by contemporary practitioners, like-minded Danish galleries Etage Projects and TABLEAU have returned to the fair in 2023 with open and discursive displays. Regular attendee Etage Projects presents the hyper-feminine world of Danish designer Anna Aagaard Jensen, whilst TABLEAU features a Barbie-like dream house of contemporary works all in pink. Whilst meeting and connecting with gallery owners such as Maria Foerlev of Etage Projects and Julius Værnes Iversen of TABLEAU helps to drive and promote collectible contemporary design, Clélie and Liv are quick to note that their network is – first and foremost, here to help designers and craftspeople create beautiful and lasting contemporary pieces;

“Through COLLECTIBLE we are conveying again and again that designers need to be supported by being collected, by being commissioned for public projects and private homes. A lot of designers choose to make unique pieces or limited editions because they are very often the ones making the works themselves or through skilled craftspeople. It provides them with more creative freedom and better possibilities to work with materials and crafts. We need to support this.”

Anna Aagaard Jensen, Dining with Daisy Table #1. Photo courtesy of Etage Projects.

Whilst the majority of the fair’s participating galleries and designers work within Europe, COLLECTIBLE has grown their offering of selected complimentary exhibitions and displays that help bring in solo-practitioners and design collectives from as far afield as China and Nigeria. Bespoke offerings, architecturally focused exhibits, and a selection of curated individual practitioners is featured alongside the established design galleries from across Europe. This added diversity within their offering also extends to a rotating selection committee for each edition that works alongside Clélie and Liv to give each fair a new outlook on contemporary design. This year’s committee includes name such as the Stedelijk Mesuem’s design curator Amanda Pinatih, architect Nicolas Schuybroek, the Royal College of Art, London’s Dr Paul Thompson and Denmark’s own Julius Værnes Iversen of TABLEAU. The diversity of each year’s selection committee is, at once, used to provide a point of difference for visitors who visit COLLECTIBLE year after year, yet also has provided Clélie and Liv the ability to grow a vast network within their chosen field, as they explain;

“The COLLECTIBLE design community is the best, so energetic, inspired, humble. We wish that that ecosystem just get stronger, better acknowledged and supported. We are just bringing a humble stone to this but are grateful when we hear from our participants how happy they are to be part of the COLLECTIBLE family.”

St. Vincents at COLLECTIBLE 2023. Photo Credit: Michèle Margot.

The committed contemporary focus of COLLECTIBLE leaves the fair in a state of constant re-newel and flux. As art and design imitates and influence life, each new addition shines a mirror on society whilst displaying what our future world could look like. For Clélie and Liv, they are helping to support a future full of individual expression and collective inspiration.