The influential daily newspaper Guardian named Georgia among the best-designed travel destinations for 2020. Besides Georgia, the list includes Marrakech (Morocco), Kampala (Uganda), Los Angeles (USA), Brussels (Belgium), Glasgow (Scotland), Tokyo (Japan), Zurich (Switzerland).
As the British newspaper writes, the Georgian capital’s burgeoning art, fashion and underground clubbing scene has earned it the nickname “the new Berlin”. But that only tells half the story, says Offermann. At the crux of Europe and Asia, and emerging from decades of Soviet occupation, the capital of Georgia has a style all of its own. “The scene here is really interesting,” says Offermann. “There’s a real sense of creativity and something exciting happening. Just to get basic art supplies is a challenge, so the artists work with whatever materials and colours they can find and that brings surprises with it.”
“This same resourcefulness also applies to venues. The lack of purpose-built cultural spaces has resulted in a certain ingenuity, with art cafes opening in crumbling art nouveau houses, pop-up galleries in Soviet-era factories and nightclubs taking over abandoned spaces – the city’s most famous techno club, Bassiani, can be found beneath the Dinamo football stadium. Similarly, Project ArtBeat, which has been instrumental in promoting Georgian contemporary artists, began life as a mobile gallery travelling the country in a shipping container before finding a permanent home in the old town.
Another Soviet-era factory – a former printing press – has been drafted into service as Tbilisi’s newest design hotel, The Stamba, where the exposed concrete of the brutalist structure is offset by abundant foliage, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and exquisite pieces of contemporary Georgian design. The hotel is also home to the Tbilisi Photo and Multimedia Museum and gives space to artist studios.
Along with its sister property, the equally stylish Rooms Hotel, the Stamba played host to several events during the most recent Tbilisi fashion week, an event that is credited with changing perceptions of the city. This May will also see the return of the Tbilisi Art Fair for its third year, and it is hoped that the growing popularity of this event will give a similar boost to the visual arts.
“The art fair is a really great time to visit Tbilisi as everything is open, there is lots happening and you’ll see the city at its best,” says Offermann. “For so long the city was closed to the world, but visitor numbers are growing and there is realpotential to make this into a centre for design and art,” the article reads.