Rodman Primack—the newly appointed director of Design Miami/ and avid design and art collector—has worked as a director at a major art gallery, a specialist at an auction house, and even founded his own design consulting practice. So it wasn’t surprising to see Primack take on a new challenge—the design fair, where his passions for art and design overlap under one roof. Artsy sat down with Primack to discuss the upcoming edition of Design Miami/ Basel (the first under his leadership); tips on tackling the fair; his favorites in Basel; and what to expect in years to come.
Artsy: Design Miami/ celebrates its tenth edition this year. In the past decade of visiting the fair, what has been your perennial go-to?
Rodman Primack: I have always been availing myself of the entire experience of the fair, both in Miami and Basel, and have really loved it from day one. I have never missed the VIP opening days, when one really has a chance to look at things without too many people, and to speak with the dealers. I have always been a repeat visitor [to each edition], as I seem to miss things each time I visit. Over the years, the collateral programming at Design Miami/ has been incredible, and the talks program as well.
Artsy: What are your top three tips for navigating Design Miami/ Basel?
RP: 1) I think it is important to see the whole fair and not to miss anything. I always stick to a specific pattern and bring along my paper plan to check off the booths as I go—to be sure that I haven’t missed anything. 2) Don’t rush through; be sure to schedule enough time to ask questions and explore. 3) Be sure your phone is charged (!!) to take pictures of things as reminders. This is essential and helps cut down time when revisiting. 4) If you’re looking for something for a specific place, bring the measurements with you, or even a copy of the floorplan.
Artsy: As a collector yourself, what is your advice for an art collector who is thinking of moving into design?
RP: Relax. The great thing about the bulk of what one collects in design is that one can use it, and it’s not so precious as to need special storage or a case. There may be some complicated shipping issues, but on the other hand you actually get to use those tables and chairs, lights, mirrors, rugs, etc. It is so great! Also, one can basically buy confidently at Design Miami/ Basel, knowing that the galleries and material have been vetted and that this is a small group of some of the best galleries in this field. The price point in design, for the most part, is reasonable, so it can really be a lot of fun.
Artsy: Your past positions have included specialist and chairman at Phillips de Pury & Company, a director at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, designer for Peter Marino Architect, and founder of your own design consulting practice, amongst others. What is the most important lesson or insight from your past experiences that you’ll bring to your new role?
RP: Every one of my previous work experiences has fed into this role, so it is hard to single something out. I have to say that after running Phillips in London, it really taught me to focus on the big picture and be sure that my team is good at chasing the details—so I can get some sleep at night!
Artsy: What are you most excited to see while you’re in Basel, outside of the fair?
RP: Of course the amazing thing about Basel is the local museums, which always have really great programming. A few not to miss:
S AM Swiss Architecture Museum: “Fritz Haller. Architect and Researcher,” May 17–August 24
Vitra Design Museum: “Konstantin Grcic–Panorama,” March 22–September 14
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich: “Weingart Typography,” May 7–September 28; “Melchoir Imboden: Designer Portraits,” June 20–August 10
Artsy: What is your vision for the future of the fair?
RP: It is too early in my tenure at the fair to make sweeping statements about the future of Design Miami/, already it is the preeminent fair for collectible design in the world, so nothing needs to be “fixed.” I do think we can innovate and explore what constitutes collectible design and help to continue to develop this market globally, and with our 10th anniversary just around the corner in Miami this December we do have some plans!
Explore Design Miami/ Basel 2014 on Artsy.
Photographs of Design Miami/Basel 2013 by Word Red Eye
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory