Culture
The Guardian gives an insight intoTbilisi's creative boom
12 April, 2018
Tbilisi, Georgia’s beautiful capital is often spotlighted by the leading international media due to its cultural revolution and quick development. Magazines all over the world are praising the emerging city for its cool and urban atmosphere.

Leading British daily newspaper, The Guardian, has recently published an article about the renaissance of fashion, nightlife and the arts in Georgia’s capital.

As the author of the article, Will Coldwell elaborates, at this stage the city has “a creative renaissance driven by clubs
and fashion, and navigating a new identity for itself in the process.”
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View of Tbilisi’s Old Town and Narikala Fortress at dusk. Photograph: Frans Sellies/Getty Images

Foreign journalist’s trip to Georgia was supported by the Georgian National Tourist Administration and traveltheunknown.com, which offers small group and tailor-made tours to Georgia, including short stays in Tbilisi.

In the beginning of the story, the author tells how he sits on the top floor of the Tbilisi’s National Scientific Library and watches the models stream into a small atrium flooded with light:

“In this 1940s building, peppered with wooden filing cabinets, bookcases and tropical plants, they are showcasing the new collection by homegrown designer Gola Damian. They walk out in a fusion of clubwear and vintage, class and trash, cowboy boots and boys with T-shirts tucked into skirts with the words “Techno aerobics” emblazoned across their chests.”

As the homegrown designer told the journalist, Fashion and nightlife are blooming in Tbilisi. According to Gola, nightlife has played a “huge role” in attracting more people to the city. This international audience comes because of destination clubs such as Bassiani, one of the most popular and frequently visited nightclubs in Georgia.

The author of the article stresses the fact that Georgia is at the intersection of turbulent cultural and historical forces. “Though it declared independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, the past three decades have seen civil war, as well as geopolitical tensions that have turned violent,” reads the article.

After having quite difficult times, however, the capital of Georgia started the new phase of development. In the past five years, Tbilisi’s electronic music scene has flourished, while new galleries, restaurants and creative spaces continue to open.

Moreover, the new generation raised in an independent Georgia is fighting for progress on LGBTQ rights and drug laws. “That generation is working to define the country’s future, while taking ownership of its past”, Will Coldwell explains.

But there are still things which are not characteristic to the democratic county, this is the reason why the author describes Georgia as the place, where “in 2013, an anti-homophobia rally was attacked – and possession of a small amount of recreational drugs can lead to imprisonment.”

Nightlife and LGBTQ

The journalist visited the city’s first gay club, Success Bar and interviewed its owner Nia Gvatua.

“On a Friday evening, I find her inside the small, louche, red-velvet-walled club wrapped in a furry pink coat,” this is how Will describes their meeting.

The bar has existed since 2000, but after Nia took over and reopened it in March 2017, it was totally transformed and burst into life as an open social hub for the city’s queer community. As it is quite predictable, it was not easy at all. According to the owner of the Success Bar, she had a lot of serious problems.
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Nia Gvatua in Success Bar. Photograph: Giga Inadze

“I got robbed … there were threats against me … but Success has become a portal for every kind of human: trans, gay, straight, lesbians, priests, politicians – all drinking, talking and integrating”, Nia told The Guardian.

After drinks at Success Bar, Will moved to Cafe Gallery, which is also well-known as the friendly and safe place for people of all genders and sexualities. Café Gallery was opened in 2011 and besides being a good place for nightlife lovers, it works as a cafe and exhibition space during the day. According to the foreign journalist’s impression, it is “an intimate venue with a strong sense of community.”

However, when it comes to nightlife, Bassiani turns out to be the favorite place for him.

“In the underbelly of the national football stadium, the cavernous club consists of a high-ceilinged main room with an impressive sound system, and a smaller room where house music dominates, plus there are ample corridors and corners to get lost in between the two. The interior fosters a sense of disorientation and it’s a place where time seems to get away from you, easily. It’s also possible to see why it has won over so many international clubbers and DJs – who have noted the enthusiasm of the crowd”, this is how will describes Georgia’s most popular night clubs.
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The club Bassiani has been behind a growth in international visitors to Tbilisi

“Georgians like to listen and dance,” DJ and producer Ana Kublashvili (AKA Newa) told him. “The club scene here feels fresh; people are excited by the idea of it.”

Ana is a rising figure in the city’s techno scene.

“She co-runs the label Icontrax with fellow producer Berika and was recently included on a release by Ben Klock’s Klockworks label, a sign of the international attention the city’s producers are receiving,” reads the article.

According to Ana, Bassiani was a big step and its contribution in her success is huge.

“Before it opened, you wouldn’t see a similar lineup in Tbilisi. I also really appreciate what it did, capturing the attention of people outside Georgia,” Ana told The Guardian.

The author of the article also counts other clubs in Tbilisi,such as Khidi, an industrial space turned two-room techno club, under a bridge on the river Mtkvari; Mtkvarze, a 1950s building, also by the river, which was turned into a club in 2012; and Vitamin Cubes, an open-air venue next to a lake in a park, which also has a cafe and hosts community events focused around environmentalism.
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Meoba bar

As he recommends, good bars to warm up a night include Mozaika and Meoba, an atmospheric dive bar with open-decks nights where regulars share their personal record collections.

Will also stresses the fact that the clubbing community has campaigned to liberalise the country’s drug policy through groups such as White Noise. “By creating cultural and entertainment spaces, developing arts and teaching the older generation how to be more tolerant, they do good things for the country,” Ana explained to him.

Creative ventures

The author interviewed Jondo “Jay” Japaridze, a representative of Tbilisi music scene, who opened Tbilisi’s first street-style barbershop, Carmora, two years ago.

“I never thought I’d open a barbershop,” he says. “But we just wanted to express ourselves through something. The shop is inspired by a mix of vintage, urban and trash.”

Around eight months ago, he opened a second branch in Fabrika, a Soviet-era sewing factory that was converted into a hostel in 2016 and boasts a photogenic, post-industrial courtyard where many of the city’s independent businesses have found a home. “The atmosphere now, it’s good…” says Jay. “You can feel the energy and the movement. There’s a platform for people.”
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Vodkast Records

“Other businesses in Fabrika include Vodkast Records, named in honour of local DJ Gio Bakanidze’s podcast series (he died in 2011 but not before inspiring many more electronic music fans in the city). There are also bars and casual restaurants, such as Pipes, a burger joint founded by graduates of the city’s new culinary academy”, reads the article.
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Bar area at Rooms Hotels

Alternative creative spaces include the Chaos Concept Store (founded in 2016 by a team including Gola Damian), which stocks street fashion brands, as well as collaborations with artists and designers from Georgia. It’s in the same building as Rooms Hotel, another focal point for the city’s international creative scene.
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Chaos Concept Store

The author also stresses the importance of the city’s two fashion weeks - Tbilisi Fashion Week and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, and notes that “fashion has drawn a lot of eyes to Tbilisi.”

Art

Will had a conversation with 27-year-old Georgian artist Gvantsa Jishkariani, who has played an active role in developing the city’s art scene.

“Three years ago she co-founded the New Collective with a group of female artists. It engages with the social conflicts of independent Georgia and one of its first exhibitions was at the Centre for Contemporary Art, which opened in 2010 and encourages creative exchange within the city. She’s also on the team of the inaugural Tbilisi Art Fair, launching this year (17-20 May),” reads the article.
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Works by artist Gvantsa Jishkariani on display in a shipping container at Project Artbeat. Photograph: PR

The author also mentions project ArtBeat, where Gvantsa has a work on show alongside other Georgian artists, including Tamuna Chabashvili, who works with traditional patterned tablecloths and explores gender issues specific to the country. Project ArtBeat began as an online gallery and became a mobile gallery in a shipping container that travelled around the country. Last October it found a permanent space in a grand building in the old town.
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At tiny shops built into one of Tbilisi’s underpasses artists use the Patara gallery/project space to display their work

Next door is the Gamrekeli gallery (another gallery is to open close by soon), while other art spots include Nectar – a small, cube-like space with a big window at the back and a view over the valley – and venues such as Artarea, which hosts contemporary art exhibitions and screenings.

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