Design/Miami continues to be one of my favorite satellite shows during Miami Art Week for its immersive installations and focus on design and art objects. Located next door to Art Basel Miami Beach, the anchoring event of Miami Art Week, Design Miami/ held its 15th edition with 33 galleries and 14 Curio presentations from 13 countries. The design show is a refreshing break from the fair fatigue of white-walled booths. Instead, you’ll find works presented in conceptual spaces.
As a marketplace for collectible design, Design Miami/ invites international design galleries to present curated exhibitions of museum-quality furniture, lighting and objets d’art dating from advent of Modernism (circa 1900) to the present day.
In my opinion, the show’s standout installation comes from Friedman Benda, a living space framed by glowing walls and furnished with pieces by artist Daniel Arsham.
The immersive installation breaks away from the traditional art fair constraints to transform the space into an imagined domestic setting.
The project began when Arsham developed a collection of objects in dialogue with his Long Island home and expanded it into a fictionalized environment. In the first hours of the fair, Friedman Benda sold its entire presentation by artist Daniel Arsham.
Another standout conceptual space was Roman Molds presented by FENDI, a collection from Zurich-based design studio Kueng Caputo. The conceptual space features ten architectural works crafted from Fendi’s soft leather into a structural material, giving it solidity and strength. The designers tried to push the material to look and feel different than usual expectations of leather by molding and forming it into seemingly weight-bearing materiality.
Louis Vuitton presented Objets Nomades, a collection of limited-edition, collectible furniture in yet another gallery booth inviting visitors to experience the pieces in the context of a living room.
This ongoing series of limited-edition, collectible furniture is imagined by some of the most creative designers of our times.
The show’s entrance exhibit encapsulates the overarching theme for the entire event: the creative synergy between contemporary design, traditional craft and sustainability.
I’m greeted by large pink sloths hang from the ceiling, Pink Beasts, an art installation by London-based Mexican designer Fernando Laposse. Several of his Pink Beasts were on view at Design Miami/ while many more were scattered around The Miami Design District as part of a 2019 Design Commission.
With Pink Beasts, Fernando explores materials and techniques native to Mexico, collaborating with likeminded textile designer Angela Damman as well as local artisans in Sahcabá, Yucatán. The artisans worked together to create creatures crafted of thousands of long, pink sisal tassels. Through the Design District, these hairy pink slots are suspended through the trees and arches. Sculptural hammocks also hang between palm trees, created in collaboration with Damman, featuring long, unbraided sisal manes, updating an otherwise traditional Mayan design.
“The Pink Beasts Project also empowered a community of women in the Yucatan of Mexico to actually make wages off of this. It took over 70 people to make this project become a reality. It’s also about empowering the artisans, ” says Luis Concepcion, who was hosting visitors at the exhibit on behalf of the artist.
By interacting with Pink Beasts at Design Miami/ and in the Miami Design District, visitors are reminded that contemporary design and traditional craft and techniques are not mutually exclusive—there are sustainable and organic ways to produce contemporary design.
Balenciaga and Crosby Studios team up to spread the message of sustainability through collectible furniture made from unused and damaged Balenciaga clothing. The Balenciaga Sofa by Harry Nuriev in collaboration with Balenciaga draws inspiration from an overstuffed recliner and is made from unsellable clothing and off-cuts from the Balenciaga warehouse. Nuriev is the founder of Crosby Studios. A booth spokesperson tells me Nuriev was very calculated in the placement of each article of clothing in the sofa stuffing.
“He had a very thoughtful artistic approach to using the clothing as if drawing or painting to give the sofa a patchwork effect. The sofa is very eco-friendly and sustainable. The cushion casing is made of a disposable polyethylene rather than vinyl or bad plastic,” she explains.
The Balenciaga sofa is a proof of concept communicating ideals about sustainability and consumerism through art.
The beauty of botany is the big idea captured in the resin furniture of artist Marcin Rusak.
Rusak’s White Perma collection is represented by Sarah Myerscough Gallery. To create his Perma furniture collection, Rusak bounds dried flowers in off-white resin in and slices the material lengthwise to reveal petals, stems, and buds. Their anatomical intricacies on view appear like veins in marble or cavities in fossilized stone.
“The pieces have a lovely narrative because Mark comes from a family of flower growers. His grandfather ran a flower business so he grew up around these wonderful greenhouses. I think his art evokes a feeling of decay or melancholy,” says Freya McLeavy, Sarah Myerscough Gallery. Each piece is a sculptural work as well, playing with the idea of form and function.
Design finds that caught my eye and captured my imagination at Design Miami/ include a collection of sculptural chairs by Functional Art Gallery.
The Berlin-based gallery was established by Benoît Wolfrom and Javier Peres in 2018 to promote young contemporary designers to an international audience.
The gallery’s mission is to help shape the discussion between art and design and to further increase the presence of cutting-edge design within the larger art world.
Functional Art Gallery works with artists and designers who push the line between aesthetics and purpose, form and function, perception and intent.
The Nalgona chair by Chris Wolston presented by The Future Perfect, made me smile for its humorous take on the human form expertly designed as functional furniture. The woven chair is crafted of 100% Colombian Mimbre (Wicker) harvested in the Colombian Amazon.
Wolston says the human form of his chair riffs on the iconic shape of the plastic Remax Chair, ubiquitous through Colombia, and the playful humanoid quality found in pre-Columbian ceramics.
Each year, Design Miami/ commissions several art installations tied to its curatorial theme. This year’s theme was “Water” an extension of its on-going focus on the earth’s elements.
The art installation Roots called attention to “alarming changes in nature and our environment” including disappearing forests and wildlife, polluted air and oceans, rising sea levels are rising, and an increase in extreme weather phenomena. Delta Air Lines and the Sacred Space Miami presented Roots by Atelier Marko Brajovic, curated by Ximena Caminos and produced by Alberto Latorre. The idea behind the art is to stimulate cultural and artistic responses to environmental change.
The Roots pavilion is a self-supporting aluminum branching system wrapped with fine custom-made ropes and was designed by a parametric software mimicking the natural growth of a mangrove rooting system. In the middle of the pavilion, a large deck is used as a collective space for ceremonies and for three traditional Amazonian hammocks from which visitors can experience the immersive documentary SACRED COCA.
For more on the artist and highlights from Design Miami/, stay tuned for new episodes of The Design Tourist filmed during Miami Art Week.