Design Miami/Basel 2021: the Wallpaper* highlights

As Design Miami returns to Basel (21 – 26 September 2021), we look at the fair’s highlights, including thematic displays, Curio presentations, and large-scale installations

A dimly lit room with multiple suspended cream textile lamps from the ceiling
DRIFT’s ‘Shy Synchrony’, presented by Superblue at Design Miami/Basel. Photography: Ossip van Duivenbode
(Image credit: Ossip van Duivenbode)

Returning for an unusual September event, Design Miami/Basel presents some of the best contemporary design, for an edition based on an exploration of ‘human nature’ through curated booths and large-scale installations at Messe Basel.

‘This year’s presentations really offer an insightful snapshot of the current design market,’ says Jennifer Roberts, CEO of Design Miami. For the first time, the fair will be shoppable online through new initiatives launched in the past year that expand Design Miami’s scope and reach. 

Design Miami/Basel 2021: highlights

Design Miami/Basel 2021 theme: Human Nature

Numerous black metal shapes with line horizontal line designs photographed on 3 levels on a mint green plinth

‘State Of The World’ by Mathieu Lehanneur. Photography: James Harris

(Image credit: James Harris)

Gallerists and designers responded to the 2021 edition’s theme of ‘Human Nature’, devised by curatorial director Aric Chen. It’s a theme, he explains, that explores ‘how we might rethink the relationship between humans, nature, and human nature. The question of sustainability and planetary survival is not simply technical, but also cognitive, cultural and philosophical. As it becomes increasingly clear that human-centric worldviews and approaches are no longer tenable, we want to explore how design offers possibilities for reimagining our relationship with non-human beings and intelligences in more viable ways.’

The theme’s impact is evident from the fair’s entrance, where installations include DRIFT’s ‘Shy Synchrony’, an arrangement of multi-sensory lighting pieces (the duo's ‘Shylights’) inspired by the phenomenon known as nyctinasty, the movement of some plants as they respond to the onset of darkness. 

Among projects responding to ‘Human Nature’ is also Mathieu Lehanneur’s ‘State Of The World’ display, a showcase of anodised aluminium sculptures representing population pyramids of different countries across the world. Using data, each sculpture represents the birthrate, life expectancy and history of over 140 countries. ‘In this very particular moment in our history, I wanted to be able to embody humanity in its entirety; to be able to crystallise the large and the complex through objects,’ says Lehanneur. 

The Elevator by Crosby Studios founder, Harry Nuriev

An Elevator room with padded silver walls, metal silver flooring and grouped silver slim cylinder tubes in different heights

Photography: James Harris

(Image credit: James Harris)

Crosby Studios founder Harry Nuriev presents a metallic furniture composition inspired by the aesthetic of a corrugated steel-clad elevator. Nuryev explains his fascination with the elevator, a symbol of passing through different realities, connecting spaces: ‘It’s a place where you get to be a kid again and press all the buttons, the destination unknown,’ he says. The space is fitted with silver modular furniture comprising a sofa, an armchair, and an ottoman.

Shaping Color by Germans Ermičs

Glass chair and console with yellow to blue gradient photographed in a white room

Photography: James Harris

(Image credit: James Harris)

An expert in West Coast minimalism, Laguna Beach-based Peter Blake makes its Design Miami/Curio platform debut, presenting its first contemporary design showcase, with a site-specific, immersive installation by Amsterdam-based Latvian designer Germans Ermičs. Titled ‘Shaping Color’, the collection features new interpretations of Ermičs’ colour-driven furniture designs in glass, in new chromatic compositions ranging from blue to yellow. The installation, says Blake, hopes to elicit ‘a phenomenological viewer experience. We hope viewers will take away a newfound appreciation for Ermičs’ focus on aesthetics and material, and their relationship with surrounding environments.’

Design by Nature by Front and Moroso

A room with multiple displayed of rocks on the floor and pictures on the wall. In the middle of the room is an artistic display of a huge rock covered in moss. Hanging off the white wall in the room are two black rectangular clothes with black and white images of moss covered rocks.

Photography: Giuliana De Luca

(Image credit: Giuliana De Luca)

Italian furniture company Moroso presents its new research and experimentation branch. Dubbed More-So, the company’s division makes its debut at Design Miami/Basel with ‘Design by Nature’, a project by Front that was originally unveiled in Wallpaper’s December 2020 issue. It features a furniture collection (comprising seating, wooden tables and vases) inspired by nature, with faithful reproductions of three-dimensional forms such as rocks, and created using using 3D-scanning, milling and weaving. 

Americana: Early Mass Modern Objects for Industry

Artistic display of multiple vintage radios in a room on metalic silver shelves

Photography: James Harris

(Image credit: James Harris)

Chicago gallery Converso presents ‘Americana: Early Mass Modern Objects for Industry’, an impressive collection of early modern industrial objects gathered over three decades and featuring rare examples of mass consumption objects designed by the likes of Charles Eames, Alvar Aalto and Alexander Girard, as well as pieces by manufacturers such as Motorola and General Electric.

Carpenters Workshop Jewellery

Brown wooden circle shaped vanity mirror on a white wall, with a wooden shelf below and a sculptured black lamp. A blad desk with 3 wooden chairs. A jewellery booth with a wooden base and a glass top showcasing the jewelleries

Photography: James Harris

(Image credit: James Harris)

Carpenters Workshop Gallery launches its jewellery division at Design Miam Basel 2021. Shown within a dedicated booth, specially designed by David/Nicolas, the launch includes limited edition, sculptural pieces by multidisciplinary artists including Caroline Van Hoek, Michèle Lamy and Loree Rodkin's Hunrod, and Kayo Saito among others. 


Design Miami/Basel 2021 runs between 21 – 26 September 2021
The next edition of Design Miami will be 1 – 5 December 2021

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.