Design Miami 2021/ PREVIEW
“Contemporary collectors are looking for the bold. Highly sculptural, statement objects that have something to say."
Convention Center Drive & 19th Street, Miami Beach
RETURNING TO MIAMI Beach’s Pride Park for its 17th edition, Design Miami/ welcomes back curatorial director Wava Carpenter. After having helped grow the blue-chip event in the late aughts, the culturemaker established various sales and editorial platforms such as Pamono, L’ArcoBeleno, and Berlin-based consultancy Anava Projects. In her reprised capacity, Carpenter hopes to steer the fair in a more humanistic direction, choosing as her overarching theme, ‘Human·Kind’.
“If there is agreement about anything amid our polarised times, it is that maintaining the status quo is no longer an option,” she explains. “So many creatives right now are using their practices and platforms to put some good in the world. Brands and buyers are following suit. This show is meant to shine a light on those efforts, from environmental actions to questioning systems that enable inequities.”
Held from 1st to 5th December and in compliance with the strictest COVID-19 protocols, Design Miami/ will feature its tried and true established roster of exhibitors: Atelier Courbet, Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Friedman Benda, Jason Jacques Gallery, Magen H Gallery, Moderne Gallery, Ornamentum, R & Company, The Future Perfect, Todd Merrill Studio, Southern Guild, and Wexler Gallery.
Joining this stellar cast is a robust Curio programme. A dynamic group of independent and new-format curatorial initiatives have been selected to participate. They include Los Angeles-based concrete designer James de Wulf, Mexico City’s ATRA, ceramics specialist J. Lohmann Gallery, Beirut’s House of Today, and Tom Dixon, making his return to the fair after a decade.
New York lighting studio PELLE will turn its Curio into a hall of mirrors, exploring the concept of the infinite. This backdrop will help the architecturally- and artisanally-minded practice inaugurate its latest ‘Be Patient Collection’ and updated ‘Lure Collection’. These contrasting luminaries emulate both nature and streamlined monumentalism in carefully considered material compositions. Crosby Studios’s Harry Nuriev will reveal a new immersive, monochromatically iridescent staging.
New York-based Twenty First Gallery are presenting Marcin Rusak’s Flora Contemporaria collection, four cabinets which pay homage to Austrian turned Swedish architect Josef Frank’s renowned Flora cabinets of the 1930s and 1950s.
Many newcomers have chosen this moment to make their Design Miami/ debut. In general, gallerists and talents alike are opting to showcase resolute and daring works, a jolt of energy we’ve all been looking for. “Contemporary collectors are looking for the bold,” Carpenter explains. “Highly sculptural, statement objects that have something to say and don’t fade into the background. Narratives around connectivity and collaboration, as well as fantastical escapist works. So much work looks otherworldly now, whether forms that evoke a primordial past or a fairy tale.”
From Design Miami/ 2021’s rich offering, the curatorial director has deciphered a few key through-lines from the overall list of exhibitors. Within the Aesthetics Of The Moment: The Fantastical & The Primordial/ focus, exhibitors like Shanghai’s Objective Gallery – presenting new pieces by design world provocateur Brecht Gander Wright – toe the line between the particular expressive and primitively pared back.
Tanya Aguiñiga’s draped weavings on view with Chicago’s Volume Gallery represent a more emotional tinge; works that explore the visceral feelings of grief, gratitude, rage and exhaustion – especially in the face of systemic discrimination, as well as the seemingly endless effects of the pandemic.
The second central trend of this year’s fair is ceramics. As our collective appreciation for craft and the handmade grows, partially in response to social and environmental issues, this medium is making a strong comeback. Cape Town’s Southern Guild Gallery will demonstrate this material focus with distinctive wares by Andile Dyalvane, Zizipho Poswa, Madoda Fani, and Chuma Mawen. Most of these talents use ceramics as a means of translating their Xhosa culture and spirituality into contemporary interpretations.
Friedman Benda will introduce never-seen-before glazed stoneware portraits by Nigerian designer Ebitenyefa Barclay. Miami gallery Mindy Solomon, meanwhile, will showcase ceramics by John Gill, Kelsie Rudolph, and Minkyu Lee, who challenge the boundaries of form with surprisingly functional results.
Iconic works from both the contemporary and historic cannons will also be making a strong showing. Philadelphia’s Moderne Gallery will display rare mid-century modern classics by American Studio Craft movement masters. George Nakashima’s highly sought-after but hard to find 1935 ‘Karuizawa’ chair’ will be the centrepiece of the booth.
An assured highlight of the fair will be a solo show mounted by Friedman Benda of British polymath Samuel Ross’s striking furnishings. His profoundly conceptual combines – from three series entitled ‘SIGNAL’, ‘RUPTURE’ and ‘AMORPHOUS STRAND’ – are characterised as psycho-geographic explorations that pull from different ritualistic processes. To showcase these pieces. the New York gallery will transform its booth into a “liminal,” quasi-industrial setting.
Visitors to Design Miami/ 2021 will be able to use the new proprietary DM21 App, simulating the full fair in an easy-to-use digital tool. Complementing the experience of the physical event, one we’ve all been yearning for, this downloadable interface will also accommodate cryptocurrency payments and NFTs.
Tying all of this programming together is a fully curated talks series Carpenter has organised. “We’re especially proud of the digital series that will launch with the show: ‘15 Minutes on Design and Human·Kind,’” she concludes. “It includes conversations about envisioning a more just and interconnected future. Topics range from design as social practice and engaging identities to biodiversity and even psychedelics.”