The hallowed yellow halls of Design Miami landed last week in Basel once agan. Showcasing 35 of the world's most prestigious design galleries, handpicked from ten countries, its mission to encourage and inspire the still-fledgling market for contemporary and 20th century design now well underway with this regular set up, nestling alongside one of the biggest art fair brands in the world for the sixth year.
Gorgeously curated and meticulously managed by its Florida-based team, Design Miami Basel has always been a sophisticated setup, and this year was no exception. More focused on the classics even than usual this year it was a case, as one visitor put it, of 'Hello and welcome to the Jean Prouvé Show'.
The mid-century modernist of the moment is without a doubt the star of the collecting scene this year with at least four of the participating galleries devoting huge sections of their booths to his work Jousse Entreprise used a segment of the 1957 Ecole de Villejuif as its exhibition space, while Galerie Patrick Seguin staged a live set up and dismantling of his 6 x 6m demountable bungalow, originally created for war victims in Lorraine, over the course of the show (watch it here). The talk of the town amongst design pilgrims during the week also largely centered on the new exhibition and launch at the nearby Vitra Campus: the unveiling of a special edition of Prouvé furniture designs developed in collaboration with denim clothing brand G-Star.
For many it was these installations that provided the show's highlights, the necessary certainties in a not-entirely-confident market. But they also provided a solid historical context and inspiring contrast in what elsewhere proved to be a strong show of new and contemporary works.
Pierre Charpin's new pieces at Paris's Galerie Kreo were outstanding, while Studio Makkink & Bey for Spring Projects and Beth Katleman's Folly at Todd Merrill also charmed fairgoers. Compelling too were the textile hangings at Christina Grajales by Suzanna Tick, Jonathan Monk's Mari Thirteen experiment at D&A Lab, and Astrid Krough's fibre optic weavings at Galerie Maria Wettergren, while Nacho Carbonell's Luciferase collection at Galerie BSL complemented his towering installation of bizarre structures just outside the hall, trees in which the designer himself could frequently be spotted nesting.
Unusually for a trade fair, the most impressive exhibits from a talent-spotting perspective were put on by Design Miami's sponsoring partners: HSBC's table from Hella Jongerius
(Watch a video interview with Hella Jongerius talking about this project), Swarovski's Iris by Fredrikson Stallard, and the W Hotels Designers of the Future Award -- which was a real breath of fresh air. The three recipients - Asif Khan (London), Mischer'Traxler (Vienna) and Studio Juju (Singapore) each created a new work along the theme of Conversation Pieces -- and the results were truly inspiring.
In case the fair might ever be at risk of taking itself too seriously Khan's installation, releasing its never-ending helium-fuelled clouds of soap-bubbles like a giant lava lamp on washing up duty, immediately lightened the mood. Prouvé may be a proven choice in an unstable economy but here's another sure thing: there's a bright, light, brave (and bubbly) new generation coming up fast. Put your money on it.
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