As much as anyone, George M. Beylerian is responsible for the coming of age of design in America. The founder and CEO of Material ConneXion and Culture & Commerce has worked tirelessly over the past 40 years to nurture and incubate design and material innovation in the U.S. and abroad.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, to Armenian merchant parents, Beylerian emigrated to the U.S. and graduated from New York University. After several years working in the fields of architectural hardware and building materials, he opened a modern, cutting-edge gallery called Scarabaeus in Manhattan in 1964. He later started The Beylerian Collection, a wholesale line of exotic accessories designed by architects, industrial designers, craftsmen and artists that awakened the American market to Italian design. Casa Idea shop followed in 1970 at Bloomingdale’s, helping to popularize the “shop-in-shop” concept.
Beylerian’s attention then turned to contract furniture and Steelcase bought his company in 1987, beginning a long and successful collaboration for both parties. Beylerian became Creative Director of the Steelcase Design Partnership, responsible for creating the image of its boutique furniture, textile, and accessory companies. Among Beylerian’s noteworthy exhibits: Industrial Elegance, Women of Design, Communicating Ideas Artfully, Chairmania, Mondo Materialis, Edible Architecture: Delicious Designs, and Work, Life, Tools.
In 1994, Beylerian founded Culture & Commerce, a design consultancy that connects its designers (including Yves Behar, Dror Benshetrit, Milton Glaser, Sami Hayek, Piero Lissoni, MIO, Paola Navone, Philippe Starck, and Marcel Wanders) to a diverse array of projects. Some of the more notable design partnerships have resulted in limited collections for TARGET by Starck, MIO, and Hayek; Rosenthal’s best-selling Vase of Phases; and the first designer mouse for Microsoft.
Still, many would say that Beylerian’s most outstanding contribution has been establishing Material ConneXion, which started in 1997 and has grown to include locations in New York, Cologne, Milan, Daegu South Korea, and Bangkok. The company’s unique Materials Library features samples of nearly 5,000 materials and is used by professionals as well as students enrolled in Material ConneXion’s academic programs. As part of its mission, the company also offers exhibitions, workshops and conferences on a diverse array of material-related topics. Meanwhile, Material ConneXion’s consulting arm advises clients ranging from BMW and Target to Proctor Gamble and Steven Holl Architects on every facet of design. (In June of 2011, Sandow Media acquired Material ConneXion and Culture & Commerce.)
In between doing all of the above, Beylerian found time to co-author several books including: Mondo Materialis,
(both Harry N. Abrams),
Work, Life, Tools
Material Connexion: The Global Resource of New and Innovative Materials for Architects, Artists, and Designers
Ultra Materials: How Materials Innovation is Changing the World
(Thames and Hudson). In 2010, Beylerian received the “Visionaries” Lifetime Achievement Award from the Museum of Art & Design in New York.