Contemporary Design at Design Miami/ Basel 2013

Tony Chambers
Jun 5, 2013 8:10PM

For this selection I’ve focused my attention on contemporary pieces, as I feel that is always the core strength of fairs such as Design Miami. Of course I adore revisiting old friends such as Jean Prouvé, Finn Juhl, and Pierre Paulin, and always marvel at how galleries like SeguinDansk Møbelkunst and Jousse curate their presentations so inventively. But it’s imperative that we support living and working designers and artists, as without them there’s no tomorrow.

Tomás Alonso‘Lines & Waves’ tea set, 2011 - Victor Hunt Designart Dealer 

This silver tea set, produced by the highly reputable Wiener Silber Manufactur, is a wonderful example of employing pattern as function. A fluted pattern on the underside of the individual set pieces and on the upper side of the tray elegantly locks each together. Perfect for use on the yacht and essential for those like myself who are prone to the odd stumble. The extremely high fine silver content makes it a sound investment, while apparently also offering anti-oxidising properties making it suitable for the dishwasher. Now that is functional.

Mikko Paakkanen‘Big Stool’, 2012 - Galerie Maria Wettergren

You can tell that Paakkanen, who trained as a carpenter and cabinetmaker, sees his pieces from that perspective as well as that of a designer. This huge, voluptuous chunk of solid oak makes me want to hug and caress it, not just sit on it. In fact, it looks like it would be good to put on its side and spend some time rolling around with it. Sculpture, furniture, and plaything.

Eske RexMeasuring Space, 2012 - Galerie Maria Wettergren

Eske Rex’s da Vinci-esque approach to the machine as sculpture and installation was best illustrated by his earlier ‘drawing machine’ piece. Using oak, string, and magnets, this ‘sculpture’ may lack some of the former’s drama, but makes up for it with serenity and, well, suspense. 

Paola Petrobelli‘24.2.2’ table lamp, 2013 - Gallery Libby Sellers

You’ve got to love a girl who has spent time as a molecular biologist and been a champion in international motor racing before turning her dexterous hands to glassmaking. Petrobelli’s Meccano-inspired lamps (floor-based or ceiling pendant) are conceived to stack one above the other, to create innumerable different forms and colourways. I’ve just seen a collection of them at Libby’s gallery in London and they are utterly delightful.

The Haas Brothers‘Beast’ bench, 2013 - R 20th Century Gallery

"Beast" bench, 2013
R & Company

Ok, this is not exactly a piece that exudes rigorous functionality, but I am partial to a bit of zoomorphic design. I also can’t fail to be impressed by the vitality, wit and craftsmanship in the work of these L.A.-based twins. Scions of a stonemason father, Simon studied blacksmithing and Nikolai apprenticed as a master carver, and this artisanal backbone is evident in all their multifarious creations.

Tony Chambers