Tbilisi – Europe’s ‘most exciting city’ – is finally back on the map
Berhasm, which has exhibited at Paris Fashion Week as well as in Tbilisi, is a collective of fashion designers, artists, and musicians from Georgia, Russia and Ukraine. Its foundation in Tbilisi pre-dates the Russian invasion, but it is representative of those creatives who have found themselves in voluntary or involuntary exile in Georgia. The group’s members grew up under the shadow of Soviet rule and share that history, as well as a commitment to standing up to oppression through creativity. The Berhasm clothing brand, spearheaded by Georgian designer Beso Turazashvili, was born out of Eastern Europe’s club scene, and their collections, campaigns, and events always speak loudly about social causes.
Art dealer David Finestein relocated from New York to Tbilisi in 2021 and set up his gallery, Dissolution, in a basement space in the city centre. “By opening an accessible space, I was able to worry less about the financial aspects of the gallery, and focus more on showing artists I could relate to,” he explains. Finestein is championing the works of emerging artists from Georgia and abroad, creating a platform for cross-border projects such as the Azerbaijani and Georgian photographers working together in the F37 union.
International collaboration is the name of the game at Tbilisi Photography & Multimedia Museum, too. TPMM recently joined forces with American “punk poet laureate” Patti Smith’s Soundwalk Collective for a two-month multi-sensory exhibition about the growing effects of climate change. TPMM’s curators are particularly interested in the role of female photographers in examining, promoting, and advocating for change, and they organise workshops and events in addition to exhibitions.
Tbilisi is the master of reinvention and in the decade or so I’ve been visiting it’s already reimagined itself several times. Georgia’s geography, politics, and economics can be a challenge, but this seems to light a creative fire, driving relentless experimentation. Add in the unusual combination of a proud, strong national identity but also an enthusiasm for welcoming foreigners, and something magical happens. Once the new flights to Tbilisi start, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.