Beirut celebrated the historic reopening of the Sursock Museum, and with it the launch of a novel concept store that serves as a platform for local designers: the Sursock Museum store. It features specially created objects inspired by Beirut, the museum and its collections and exhibits. Upon opening in October 2015, the boutique already displayed the works of 30 Lebanese designers ranging from established fashion greats like Rabih Keyrouz to younger lesser-known artists. While some items will remain as a relatively permanent collection, each new batch of designers will draw inspiration from the museum’s dynamic activities at that time.
The store is run by a volunteer committee called the “Friends of the Museum” (composed of Omar Daouk, Karim Khouri, Leen Kassar, Youmana Chehab Ariss and Nour Salame), whose mission it is to curate and manage the space, proposing collaborations with valuable designers and examining the influx of those wishing to display. As a non-profit entity it returns earnings back to sustaining the free museum. So far the shop has done exceptionally well, exceeding expectations. The curators say many visitors feel compelled to peek in and often buy a souvenir because it completes the visit, but it’s gaining popularity even as a stand-alone boutique for unique designs by local talent. To make sure the novelty factor doesn’t wear off, they plan to host events and book-signings, create special projects and offer corporate gifts by featured designers.
In the opening collection a diverse range of items is available, starting with $1 postcards featuring the museum’s art, to diamond pendants by renowned jeweler Selim Mouzannar. You’ll find a three-in-one coaster-candleholder-hotplate by Tawlet; Margherita’s concrete jewelry inspired by an architectural memory of Raouche’s La Gondole building; jewelry by NounZein and Ralph Masri; and clutches by Sarah’s Bag mimicking Sursock’s facade. The selection also extends to pens with stylized “chewed” bronze caps by Marc Baroud (which are flying off the shelves – go figure); signature geometric bags by Nathalie Trad; a tractor sculpture by Carlo Massoud; Nayef Francis’ lamps that throw a calligraphy shadow of a quote taken from the museum’s wooden oriental salon room; Alya Tannous’ stylish glassware; notebooks with vintage “Salon D’Automne” covers; a documentary about the revival of the museum by Bahij Hojeij; Ideo Parfumeurs’ soaps; and seasonal, bespoke goodie baskets. Plus there’s a lot of art books, including a large, popular selection for children. Kids can also get their hands on a 3D jigsaw puzzle by urbacraft, coloring books by Choux à la crème, Arabic letter blocks made of chalkboard painted wood by Spockdesign and more.
The idea is to have something for everyone – reflecting the museum’s role as a public space that belongs to all the people of Beirut.