Style and substance: André Balazs curates 'Design at Large' at Design Miami/ Basel 2015
For the second time, Design Miami/ Basel presents a selection of large-scale works selected by a guest curator. After last year’s stint – curated by Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman, who presented a wide variety of multidisciplinary pieces – 2015's installment takes over the fair’s foyer, greeting visitors with a panoply of wonders selected by André Balazs.
Aptly titled 'Design at Large', the initiative aims to present large works of contemporary and historical design that don’t fit within the traditional fair booths. Balazs has focused on themes of prefabrication and demountability, presenting seven pieces that together create a conversation around the topics of sustainable design, luxury and flexibility.
Balazs' curatorial starting point was Jean Prouvé’s Total Filling Station, the 1969 work commissioned by the gas company Total. Balazs’ interest in Prouvé originated when he bought the Maison Tropicale a few years ago – a purchase instigated both by his interest in the building's design, but also in the notion of environmental sustainability it explored. ‘I think the reason Prouvé is in the show now is that we have come full circle,’ Balazs explains. ‘Prouvé is the original modern designer that mastered mass production, and at the same time it has now become collectible.’
The collection of works on show also includes Atelier Van Lieshout’s organically-shaped The Original Dwelling, Shigeru Ban’s Paper Tea House and Edouard François’ Flowerhouse. Three further pieces include Better Shelter, produced as a collaboration between the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR; a Volkswagen Campervan from the late 1960s; and Maidan by Bureau A, a shelter structure inspired by the protest community of Kiev's Maidan Square. The exhibition is accompanied by moodboards exploring each piece in further detail, and a timeline which gives context to the prefab concept.
The selection presents the fine dichotomy between conceptual sculptural design and more democratic, humanitarian design with a functional scope. For Balazs, the juxtaposition of the Ikea shelter with the Bureau A piece perfectly embodies this contrast: two pieces with similar shape, material and manufacturing method that have opposite objectives – one an emergency dwelling, the other a political sculpture.
‘Everything in the show,' he concludes, 'was meant to illustrate some of the conundrums facing this whole genre now.'