At Design Miami/, Galleries Show That without the Past, There Is No Future
With a relatively small group of exhibitors, Design Miami/ is a fair consistently driven by quality, innovation, and conceptual clarity. This year, the floor appears to be dominated by group shows that juxtapose several different periods and designers. And while newcomers like Secondome and The Future Perfect are making a splash with elaborate environments, it’s the carefully considered surveys that caught our attention. Here are eight booths worthy of a more in-depth look.
Poised at the entrance to the fair, Galerie kreo greets visitors with a group presentation that places new contemporary work alongside curious historical pieces. Not designed to mimic a living room or a domestic vignette, the booth relies on the connections between the works, many of which have a sharp sense of humor—take Wieki Somers’s boat-cum-bathtub or Jaime Hayon’s Racket mirror (2015), resembling a large ping-pong paddle. “Of course I am excited about the brand new things, but I also love vintage pieces,” explains gallerist Clémence Krzentowski. “We have three pieces in oak that I love: Konstantin Grcic’s staircase [London Calling, 2014], the desk by Jasper Morrison, and the bathtub by Wieki Somers. It’s a real boat. I have one at home.”
Back-to-back with Galerie kreo, Demisch Danant took a more theatrical approach, swathing the booth with a coat of black paint and covering the floor with a memorable green carpet. “The decoration comes from an interior that Michel Boyer designed for a lobby of a building in Paris in 1972. The desk, which is a unique piece, was actually made for the lobby of this building,” explains co-director Stephane Danant. “I think it’s extremely important to have an environment that contextualizes the work. Of course, we also like showing design this way; Suzanne and I are into architecture, so a lot of our inspiration comes from those intersections.” The booth features two main storylines. The first is a dazzling display of stainless steel furniture from the 1960s and ’70s by heavy hitters like Boyer and Maria Pergay. The second, and perhaps the more intriguing of the two, is their small assemblage of lamps produced by Verre Lumière, a French lighting company founded in 1968. Jean Pierre Vitrac’s Flower Lamp (1970) is a favorite amongst the bouquet.
Bringing up the international average, Southern Guild focuses exclusively on South African designers this year. Filled with a strong sampling of animal-inspired work, the booth feels a bit like a lively menagerie. A favorite amongst the bunch is Porky Hefer’s swinging leather shark chair, which envelops visitors within a giant open maw. “Her name is Fiona Blackfish,” says the gallery’s Tracy Chemaly. “I think there is a sense of humor that is shared by a lot of our designers and you can really see that this year.” Other highlights include David Krynauw’s chandelier, whose limbs stretch out over Xandre Kriel’s heavy metal Vos Altar table (2014). Designer Justine Mahoney’s curious bronze dolls round out the mix.
The French gallery concentrated its energies on the work of Pierre Paulin, whose work fills the grand majority of the booth, with a small corner featuring other designers. “They are rare vintage pieces from around the 1970s. Take for instance this exquisite lounge by Paulin. There is one at the Pompidou and this one, which comes from the family,” explains gallerist Rémi Gerbeau. “We’ve represented his work for 15 years, but we decided it was a good time to bring the work to an American audience. Next May, we will have a show of all Paulin that will correspond with the Centre Pompidou’s upcoming retrospective.” Grouped into small vignettes, with a focus on seating, the pieces showcases the playfulness of the late French icon.
At Gallery ALL, concept trumps comfort with a brand new collection of twisted metal furniture by Aranda\Lasch, titled the “Railing series.” Occupying the middle of the booth, these stools and seats of bent steel and leather create a kind of playground. “We grouped the works by stories,” explains co-founder Yu Wang, pointing to the right wall of the booth. “For example, here you see two work series by Naihan Li, one is about architecture, the other is inspired by terrains. Together they create this kind of landscape narrative.” One glimpse at Li’s China Steel Corporation Cabinet (2015) inspires comparisons between corporate or industrial architecture and more domestically sized design.
One can spy Victor Hunt’s booth from down the aisle thanks to its luminous presentation, which focuses exclusively on contemporary lighting. The display of glowing fixtures, many hung from the ceiling and walls, showcase some of the most cutting-edge talent, including brand new works by up-and-coming designer Sabine Marcelis and Commonplace studio. “I really wanted to do a light sculpture show and it all came together rather organically,” says dealer Alexis Ryngaert of the booth’s single-minded focus. “I think it’s important to suck visitors into a world when exhibiting at a fair.”
A mélange of new work takes residence in gallerist Patrick Parrish’s booth, which is organized like an extended hallway anchored by Bec Brittain’s jaw-dropping, floor-to-ceiling Mercury lamp (2015). On either side of the booth, one finds a treasure trove of debuts including a new collection of super-sized vases by ceramist Cody Hoyt and white and blue glazed vessels by Guy C. Corriero. The most compelling addition to the fray might be Brian Thoreen, with his rubber-coated credenza. “I think all the work in Patrick’s booth shares a common source,” says Thoreen. “They all are rooted in vintage forms and ideas, but they take those concepts into the 21st century, whether it’s through materials or an unexpected detail. There is a shared reverence.”
R & Company’s booth is a two-headed monster. On one side of the booth, a selection of vintage work, including pieces by Wendell Castle, looks reminiscent of a museum exhibition with each work spaced carefully so as to give it room to breathe. The other side is occupied by the Haas Brothers’ new “Afreaks” collection, a series of beaded furniture pieces and objects that the California-based designers realized in partnership with African artisans. Exquisite in their detailing, together these handcrafted works transform the space into a kind of surreal forest environment. “The balance between the vintage and the contemporary is crucial,” says co-founder Zesty Meyers. “Without the past, you can’t have the future.”