Design Miami/ Basel 2017: daring debuts, mid-century marvels and other highlights
Design Miami/ Basel presented its most far-reaching edition ever over the past week, somewhat in contrast with the state of the world and reaffirming design’s strong bonding power. ‘Looking around our world in 2017 – from the US to the UK, France and beyond – it is with great pride that this edition of Design Miami/ Basel will be the most diverse ever,’ said Rodman Primack, fair’s chief creative officer. ‘More countries than any previous edition are represented at the fair and a broader range of styles and aesthetics than ever before.’
It was clearly a year of debuts: for its inaugural Basel outing, South American gallery Mercado Moderno (based in Rio de Janeiro) took over a booth of the Herzog & de Meuron-designed halls, presenting the finest modern and contemporary design from Brazil. A first for the fair is also the introduction of art deco, art nouveau and De Stijl pieces, courtesy of first-time Monaco gallerist Robert Zehil who displayed a rich collection of pieces by the likes of Renè Lalique and Albert Cheuret.
Significant solo shows included an Ettore Sottsass display by Friedman Benda, which followed a series of initiatives that have been celebrating the designer’s centenary throughout the year (such as the Fondazione Giorgio Cini’s retrospective of his glass works, and Charles Zana’s personal collection of Sottsass ceramics, both on display in Venice). At the Friedman Benda’s booth, the designer’s glass and ceramic works displayed his savoir-faire with colour and his humorous approach to form – but it was a series of wooden cabinets that really showed off Sottsass’ aesthetic sensibility and his material prowess.
Throughout the fair, another strong Italian presence was felt in architecture group BBPR; Milanese gallery Nilufar dedicated its stand to public and private commissions by the firm, including outdoor lighting for Milan’s Mediolanum cinema and a wood, metal and glass panel created for a private residence. Other galleries which included BBPR in their offerings were Chicago-based Casati (a 1958 loveseat the group designed for their Casa Ravelli project), along with Milan’s Galleria Rossella Colombari and Monaco-based Gate 5.
It was undoubtedly the year of historical design, with impressive presentations of mid-century marvels such as Jean Royere’s 1966 coat hanger, an ornamental tree snaking up one booth’s walls, and displayed alongside other pieces and sketches from the French designer’s repertoire. New York gallery Demisch Danant continued its brilliant championing of mid-century French designers, with a solo display of pieces by Jacques Dumond, a leading figure of the modernist movement whose streamlined furniture and lighting pieces link traditional interior design and an exploration of new materials and technologies. Nearby, Gallery Mathieu Richard celebrated another mid-century French creator, showing pieces by Mathieu Matégot in a minimal monochrome setting.
‘We are excited about different voices coming together and creating diverse ways to talk about design,’ explained Primack, and this diverse attitude is well-exemplified throughout the fair. The Design Curio programme (inviting designers, galleries and curators to create small cabinets of curiosities dotted throughout the fair) included Supergufram, a new spin-off brand by the Italian radical design marque Gufram, which launched with a collection of tongue-in-cheek pieces by Studio Job that pushed the boundaries of polyurethane production. Another Curio highlight was a captivating homage to Carlo Mollino by Oscar Humphries, including a short film about the late architect’s work.
Wood, metal and glass panel created for a private residence by architects BBPR at Nilufar. Photography: Daniele Iodice
This year, the Collector’s Lounge design was entrusted to Milanese creative laboratory Leclettico, whose owner and long-term Wallpaper* collaborator Claudio Loria created a fantasy world of vintage furniture mixing patterns and eclectic inspirations. It was a different aesthetic direction for the lounge, one that felt like an inviting new way to offer visitors a place to meet at the Messe.
Elsewhere in the fair, Kenny Schachter presented his collection of cars that ranged from Zaha Hadid-designed futuristic vehicles to classics such as the 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia and an Austin Mini Cooper. Swarovski returned with its forward-thinking Designers of the Future initiative, presenting a minimal space where the three winners’ works conversed through different media exploring the potential of crystal.
For Primack, the design diversity on display is a good indicator of the market’s dynamic vitality. ‘We are so pleased that with this edition, growth and expansion across markets is clear;’ he said. ‘It speaks to the growth of the fair and the vitality of the collectible design market that gallerists of such caliber and breadth are joining us in Basel.’