For Design Miami/ Basel's 10th edition, the pioneering fair returned to its Herzog & de Meuron-designed fairgrounds, once again offering an excellent selection of participating galleries and collateral projects, and initiating a wide range of design conversations.
'It's hard to believe that a decade has passed since the first edition,' said the fair's co-founder Craig Robins, inaugurating from the confines of Jean Prouvé's 'Total Filling Station'. In 2005, he worked with Ambra Medda, Patrick and Laurence Seguin, and Didier and Clémence Krzentowski to develop an event that would act as an international platform for collectable design. The market has since grown, he adds, 'thanks to the efforts of those visionary dealers who helped us launch the inaugural edition, held in a church in Basel'.
As executive director Rodman Primack (celebrating his first anniversary in the role) explained, the number of participating galleries has more than tripled; 46 separate participants now make up the Design Miami/ family. He also noted how the fair had evolved beyond the solely commercial realm, becoming a bona fide 'forum for design'.
The variety of work on show over the week clearly exemplified this concept: from 'Design At Large''s prefab debate – coordinated by André Balazs – to the 'Design Curio' platform, which Primack defines as 'little slivers of the design world which don’t necessarily fit into the market commercially'. The latter included Belgian gallery Maniera – establishing an intriguing design language with editions of products by architects – and Dzek's bathroom booth, constructed in black marmoreal by Max Lamb and Brent Dzekciorius.
At the far end of the fairgrounds, Tom Kundig's 'Outpost Basel' lounge took the shape of a pavilion pairing architectural prowess with a wider discourse on sustainability and design. Nearby, the three Swarovski Designers of the Future – Elaine Ng Yan Ling, Tomás Alonso and Studio Swine – offered an inspiring insight into the contemporary design landscape, giving new life to crystal and showing their three practices’ signature styles in a new light.
The galleries on show provided a strong combination of fresh projects, installations and older pieces, with highlights including Demisch Danant's artfully presented carpet collection – created by artist Sheila Hicks for her 1971 exhibition in Rabat, Morocco, and not publicly displayed since – which was shown alongside pieces by Michel Boyer, Pierre Paulin and Maria Pergay as 'Radical Rabat'. Carwan Gallery's solo installation of works by Beirut-based Karen Chekerdjian highlighted the designer’s sinuous and graphic language, her monumental light pieces effectively stealing the show.
Finally, New York gallery R & Company reminded us of how design can combine an iconic aesthetic with both humour and a noble purpose. Gallery founders Evan Snyderman and Zesty Meyers worked with German designer Renate Müller (whose toys for children with mental and physical handicaps were first developed in the 1960s), presenting a new collection of therapeutic soft toys that were entertaining, elegant and thoughtful.