Design Miami returns to its original Florida outpost from 1 – 5 December 2021 for its 17th edition, gathering international galleries, designers and brands under the theme of ‘Human Kind’.‘The 17th edition of Design Miami will look at how design can play a role in shaping the world for the better,’ comments Jennifer Roberts, CEO of Design Miami

Design Miami curator 2021: Wava Carpenter

Making her debut as Design Miami Curatorial director for 2021 is Wava Carpenter, a curator with a special focus on design for the greater good, both through her work and with Anava Projects, a curatorial agency which she founded with Anna Carnick in 2019.

This edition of Design Miami will highlight designers and practitioners working towards a more equitable, interconnected future through cutting-edge design thinking, ideas, conversations and the future, explored through special projects by participating galleries. ‘The practice of design, at its heart, has always aimed to create a better future,’ says Carpenter as she introduces this year’s theme. ‘In recent years, as the global challenges that humanity faces have approached existential proportions, the future that designers envision increasingly demands a fundamental reorientation of what it means to be human in this world, calling on all of us to become better stewards of nature and of each other.’

Miami Design District: an installation by Studio Proba and Enjoy the Weather

Colourful abstract sculpture in Miami’s Design District
Photography: Kris Tamburello

Curated by Anava Projects and Design Miami, the annual Design District installation was created by Portland-based Studio Proba and Enjoy the Weather. 

Titled ‘Tomorrow Land’, it features colourful shapes by Studio Proba that aim at transforming the area into ‘an interactive playground’, serving as sculptures and seating arrangements. The physical installation then comes to life virtually through the work of Enjoy the Weather, with a dedicated app that allows visitors to play with the shapes throughout the neighbourhood. Unveiled during Design Miami, the commission will remain in situ until May 2022, and the interactive app will include a fundraising element soon to be announced. ‘“Tomorrow Land“ harnesses the power of design to spread a little joy and a sense of community at a time when it’s so urgently needed,’ say Carnick and Carpenter. 

Adds Studio Proba founder Alex Proba: ‘The project is not only huge for us in terms of colour and scale of our art, but especially important, as it is interactive and will get people outside, moving around the city, and contributing to a better tomorrow.’

Digital innovations at Design Miami 2021: from cryptocurrency to NFTs

For its 2021 edition, Design Miami introduced a series of digital innovations that expand the fair’s reach beyond the physical edition. 

The inaugural Design Miami Mobile App, a digital companion for the fair, makes its debut, allowing visitors to engage with the fair through 3D tours and click-to-buy exhibited works. Additionally, Design Miami is now the first major fair to accept cryptocurrency payments for any pieces available on the online marketplace. 

Another innovation for this year’s edition is the introduction of NFTs through a highly curated collection by creatives from Design Miami’s network. The works will be available to purchase through the OpenSea platform from 30 November to 30 December 2021. The collection includes pieces by Job Smeets, Katie Stout, Sebastian Errazuriz, and Studio Proba, presented by R & Company, and designs by Misha Kahn from Friedman Benda. 

‘For designers, NFTs offer opportunities to imagine and create without limitation,’ says R & Company principal Zesty Meyers. ‘We know that collectible design is needed for the NFT space and for the growing virtual environments in which so many people are getting engaged.’

Design Miami 2021: what to see at the fair

Undulated wooden bench by Mabeo for Fendi, presented at Design Miami 2021
‘Shiya Seat’ by Mabeo Studio for Fendi. Image courtesy of Fendi and Mabeo Studio

Among the fair’s 2021 highlights is a collaboration between fair regular Fendi, and Botswana designer and entrepreneur Peter Mabeo, presenting a ten-piece collection of furniture created by craftspeople across Botswana. 

Vase with blue base and spiky black top by Zizipho Poswa
‘Umthwalo uMamvulane’ by Zizipho Poswa for Southern Guild. Photography: Christof van der Walt

South African gallery Southern Guild presents ‘Studio Visit’, a specially commissioned collection of ceramics in a range of scales, by Zizipho Poswa, Andile Dyalvane, Chuma Maweni, and Madoda Fani, exploring traditional Xhosa culture and spirituality.

 
Bench by Samuel Ross with curved marble seat and orange metal base
The ‘Rupture’ lounge chair by British designer Samuel Ross with gallery Friedman Benda. Photography: Oliver Matich, Daniel Kukla

British designer Samuel Ross launches two new furniture collections with Friedman Benda: ‘Rupture’, including furniture in marble and steel, and ‘Amorphous Strand’, comprising two benches in steel and fired OSB. 

Daniel Arsham Kohler sink made of 3D printed white ceramic resting on an oxidised brass stone-shaped object, with water coming out of a minimalist black tap
Daniel Arsham’s 3D-printed ceramic sink, created with Kohler, rests against a rock-shaped form cast from brass. Photography courtesy of Kohler Co

American bathroom specialist Kohler makes its Design Miami debut with a design by Daniel Arsham: the pebble-like form of the 3D-printed ceramic sink follows the designer’s playdoh-inspired furniture pieces and combines sustainability and creative experimentation. 

Curios at Design Miami 2021

Atra booth in Miami with a large scale picture of the moon on the background

A regular feature of the Design Miami fairs, the Curios project showcases curated booths by emerging designers and galleries. ’Best in show’ this year was awarded to an immersive booth design by Atra; titled ’Earth Year 2100’, the exhibition imagines ’a near-future when life has drastically changed and the mundane has been taken over by technology’.

Solid shiny brass table by Tom Dixon, shown in the factory next to machinery
‘Mass’ table by Tom Dixon Design Research Studio

Other highlights from this year’s edition include Tom Dixon’s return to the fair (after over a decade) with a showcase of the work from the studio’s Design Research Studio led by Helene Bangsbo Andersen. At the heart of the presentation is the ‘Mass’ series, a collection of ‘super-polished’ brass tables, book stands and coat racks handmade in the UK from solid brass extrusions.

Lighting design by Pelle made of minimalist aluminium composition
‘Be Patient’ floor lamp by Pelle. Photography: Eric Petschek

Fair newcomer Pelle makes its debut with a series of lighting pieces showing the contrasting aesthetic approaches of studio founders Jean and Oliver Pelle. Titled ‘Infinite Lure’, the studio’s mirror-clad booth is presented as an immersive light installation exploring different approaches to craft through four new designs. 

Semi-circular marble desk with white chair featuring a round back
‘Kipfel’ marble desk by Lara Bohinc. Photography: R. Reid

Also new to the fair is London-based designer Lara Bohinc, whose Curio exhibition marks her first stateside showing, with her ‘Afternoon Tea’. The five-piece collection features bold, sculptural pieces in marble and upholstery, and it was conceived during the designer’s time in isolation. ‘The pandemic forced us all to spend more time at home, and I realised that I wanted my pieces to make you feel loved, cocooned and happy. I also wanted to create pieces that look like they are good enough to eat, she says. 

’The Bedroom’, 2021, by Harry Nuriev. Photography courtesy of Crosby Studios 

Having got Design Miami audiences used to immersive installations, Crosby Studios’ Harry Nuriev presents ‘The Bedroom’, a room featuring a ryokan-style mattress placed within a lightbox with a ‘moon gate’ entrance, exploring themes of meditation and escaping reality.

Two cabinets, one open one closed, made of translucent amber with embedded flowers, created by Marcin Rusak
‘Flora Cabinet 90 Amber’ by Marcin Rusak. Photography: Mathijs Labadie

Marcin Rusak’s enchanting flower-clad designs are presented in the form of four cabinets that reference the work of Josef Frank. Working with New York’s Twenty First Gallery, the Polish designer created the ‘Flora Contemporanea’ collection, giving a utilitarian declination to his work. Originating from a similar concept, the four designs have distinctively different personalities, each defined by colour and material. 

Chairs with spiky round backs presented by House of Today
‘NN’ chair by Khaled El Mays at House of Today. Photography: courtesy of House of Today and Khaled El Mays 

Returning to Miami for the first time since 2017, non-profit creative organisation House of Today presents a solo exhibition of Lebanese designer Khaled El Mays, titled ‘New Nature’ and created in collaboration with Mexico City craftspeople using leather, wood, raffia, wicker and ceramics.

Unique Design x Miami: a nomadic fair championing diversity

Garance Valle booth in Miami
Works by Garance Valle

Miami newcomer Unique Design is a new fair making its debut at the Faena District, within the OMA-designed Faena Park building (3420 Collins Avenue). This female-founded, boutique nomadic fair has a focus on ‘the creators that make functional art from the XYZ and millennial generations’. This generational focus, reads the mission statement, ‘naturally evokes a more inclusive, collaborative spirit, embodying a creativity that is fueling the innovation necessary for our world’s future’.

Among the Unique Design highlights are a skateable pop-up installation by Yinka Ilori (who is also unveiling a new café for art incubator Superblue nearby), in collaboration with Tony Hawk’s The Skatepark Project and engaging with local and international youth charities, and an exhibition of design objects under the title ‘A New Space Age’, featuring 17 designers from 12 countries. 

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