Cevisama: will this week’s exhibition be a new beginning or the end of an era, wonders Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson has been an award-winning influencer in the tile industry for 30 years. He created the Diary of a Tile Addict blog to shine a light on artists, architects and designers as well as sharing the work of talented and inspiring individuals who help make the ceramic tile world so creatively diverse, technically advanced and intellectually fascinating. He was the Founding Editor of Tile UK in 1996, has edited Tile & Stone Journal and The Specifier’s Guide to Ceramic Tile & Calibrated Natural Stone, and acts as International Correspondent for Tile Today and Discovering Stone in Australia. Joe will be leading the seminars at the Hard Surfaces exhibition running alongside the Natural Stone Show at ExCeL London in June 2023. You can catch up with Joe on his TileCast podcasts on diary-of-a-tile-addict.castos.com.

At last year’s Cersaie in Italy I was asked repeatedly about that show’s main European rival, Cevisama in Spain. For 30 years Cevisama has brought the tile world together in Valencia each February, but the perennial fixture in the trade’s calendar has been profoundly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

When The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern in 2020, Cevisama was a casualty, with the 2021 edition initially postponed and then cancelled altogether. 

The rise and fall of Covid-19 cases allowed Cersaie to re-open its doors in 2021, albeit under a severe health test regime and a 50% fall in visitor numbers due to travel restrictions. But the fact that it took place primed the Italian event’s return to something like normality in 2022 when it attracted nearly 100,000 visitors, only 20% below its all-time audience peak.

Cevisama, on the other hand, sadly always seemed to be on the wrong side of the coronavirus curb and the event was not held in 2021 or 2022. So when the doors to Cevisama #39 open in Valencia on 27 February this year, it will be more than three years since Cevisama #38. 

The 38th Cevisama ran from 3 to 7 February 2020. It attracted 92,000 visitors, with more than 21,000 from overseas.

My chats at Cersaie indicated that many in the tile trade doubted whether Cevisama could recover from the pandemic shut-downs. This view was underlined by the additional twin blows of clay shortages and spiralling energy prices, both results of Russia invading Ukraine.

For Spain, Brexit is potentially an additional drag factor because the UK has traditionally been one of Spain’s top three tile export markets.

So it is particularly positive to report that the latest news from the event’s organisers is that almost 400 direct exhibitors – and more than 500 brands – will be showcasing their latest ceramic and porcelain floor and wall tiles this year alongside bathroom equipment, natural stone, and other related construction sectors.

Make no mistake, this is not a complete return to the good old days. Unless there is a last minute change of heart, which seems highly unlikely, the show will not feature Pamesa, one of Spain’s major players. A long-time loyal supporter of the show, the absence of this major group’s extensive portfolio of powerful brands leaves a significant hole.

The current catalogue of exhibitors also excludes any of the Porcelanosa brands. This is less surprising because Porcelanosa has generally chosen to plough its own furrow, holding a series of events at its impressive headquarters near Villareal to coincide with Cevisama.

Inevitably, this detracts from the show as Porcelanosa is, without doubt, one of the highest profile and most aspirational tile brands in the world and its events always draw a crowd.

Thankfully, a number of Spain’s other leading tile brands will be exhibiting at Cevisama. The list includes such renowned names as Peronda, Roca, Baldocer, Keraben, Grupo STN, Aparici, Apavisa, Schluter Systems, Raimondi, Fila, and Cevica... there are more.

It should be celebrated that, despite the challenging market conditions, so many factories continue to see the Valencia event as the leading trade fair for the Spanish ceramics sector. As such, Cevisama remains closely aligned to the mission of Ascer, the Spanish ceramic tile manufacturers’ association, to take the ‘Made in Spain’ message to every corner of the world.

Carmen Álvarez, Cevisama’s Director, says: “Thanks to the support of the Valencian Regional Ministry of Sustainable Economy, in 2023 we will be investing €1million in Cevisama through the most powerful promotional campaign in our history, inviting thousands of VIP buyers from target countries in the sector to come to the event. This initiative will more than meet the expectations of buyers from all the firms in the ceramics and bathroom industry taking part in the fair.”

The buyers already invited include Spain’s own distributors and the main dealers from foreign markets where ceramics have a strong foothold or excellent growth potential, which includes the UK along with the USA, Germany, France, and Canada. Major trade visitors from the contract channel who are product opinion leaders and project developers are also on the target list of the €1million spend.

In 2023 Cevisama will be hosting the best Architecture Forum it has put together in years, featuring three top architects, including the latest two Pritzker Architecture Prize winners: Francis Kéré, who won in 2022; and Anne Lacaton, the 2021 winner. The triumvirate’s third member is UK heavy hitter David Chipperfield, one of the creators of the highly acclaimed Veles e Vents building in Valencia’s Marina.

As Carmen Alvarez says, the confirmation of Chipperfield, Kére, and Lacaton assures the forum is a world-class event.

She also says that Cevisama remains committed to inviting other leading figures from the world of architecture to the fair and giving them a unique forum for discussion and learning. “The fair is definitely going to be a hit with all the clients, exhibitors and visitors participating in the event,” she says.

As a time-served flag waver for ceramic tiles, I certainly hope the 39th Cevisama lives up to the advance billing. Dedicated exhibitions are a great source of vitality and energy in the sector. If ceramic tiles are going to continue to convince the world’s interior designers, architects, and home owners that they are a supreme surface solution, they need Cersaie, Coverings, and Cevisama to continue their missions of the past three decades by championing innovation, showcasing trends, providing a stimulating forum for international business, and disseminating news about the best developments in installation.

Given the resurgence of interest in small formats, colourful patterns, rich glazes, 3D forms, and the artisanal aesthetic – all strengths of the Spanish ceramic tile sector – it might just be that after three void years Cevisama finally has timing on its side.

More at: cevisama.feriavalencia.com.

Cevisami returns next week

Cevisami returns next week.

However the Spanish show goes, the UK has its own Hard Surfaces exhibition of ceramics, engineered stones and a whole lot more to look forward to. It opens on 6 June at ExCeL London. I will be there, hosting the seminar programme, and I hope to welcome you to the event.