If Design Miami has looked like a triumph of contemporary exuberance over historical gravitas in recent years, then the 2020 edition will surely complete that process. The fair for design and decorative arts, which opened in December 2005 on the occasion of Art Basel Miami Beach, has developed into a chic tent opposite the Convention Center, where the main art fair with up to 60 galleries from all over the world takes place.
But this year it is returning to its roots in a scaled-down but real exhibition – the Moore Building in the Design District. Unsurprisingly, Europe’s blue-chip galleries, selling 20th century design at increasingly higher prices, won’t make the trip (although Mercado Moderno managed to bring mid-century Brazilian modernism out of Rio) . And you wonder if they will ever come back. Miami is so much better for the fun stuff.
Studio Jobs ‘Banana Lamp’
This year only 10 galleries are presenting works in a traditional exhibition stand format on the four beautiful gallery floors of the Moore building. On the ground floor, the Miami Podium design takes place under a huge sculpture by Zaha Hadid that floats like a huge piece of chewing gum. This is a sales exhibition with around 140 objects from 33 different galleries and artists – almost all of them from the USA – put together by the curatorial director of Design Miami, Aric Chen, under the motto “America (s)”.
“We decided on America as a theme for Design Miami last year – ideas for America have already been contested. We knew there would be elections, ”said Chen on the phone from Shanghai, where he is based. “But the events of this year have certainly exacerbated the questions we were already trying to address.”
When he returned to Miami for further talks in March, he met his colleagues via Zoom from his hotel room at Standard as the pandemic swept through Florida. This week he was overseeing the installation of the show from his kitchen in China. “It’s frustrating because the core of any exhibition is how things work in real space.”
‘Girl with Fans 5’ by Jolie Ngo
While Miami was subject to restrictions through mid-September and a curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the Design District has benefited from the effects of the pandemic on people’s use of the city. With its open space, outdoor restaurants, and ample parking, the locals are more numerous than before. Craig Robins, co-founder of Design Miami and developer of the Design District, points out that Miami itself has also become more desirable.
“There is a sizable community of people who have the privilege of suspending the pandemic down here,” he says. “Some had real estate, others bought it.”
Along with the affluent Palm Beach residents, they should ensure that Design Miami’s offerings are well received, even if the Moore building, which typically seats 2,000 or more, is currently only allowed to accommodate 200 people at a time. (Design Miami would normally expect around 30,000 visitors.) Covid fatigue certainly stimulates spending here. “The fashion retailers recorded a sales increase of 40 percent in September and October compared to 2019 in the same period,” says Robins.
The Moore Building in Miami © Luis Gomez
A former furniture showroom dating from 1921 – extraordinarily old for Miami – the Moore Building provides a more pleasant backdrop for the design than any tent. Inside, visitors will find some rather unexpected sights. For example two dinosaur skeletons, presented by the Jason Jacques gallery in New York. “We didn’t plan to include dinosaurs, but [they were] on this continent in front of each of us, ”says Chen.
In September, Chen went to great lengths to contact both independent designers and distributors. As a result, the work of Isaac Scott, a Philadelphia ceramist, will be exhibited. The ships contain the images he took of the city’s violent BLM protests. (The images were published in full in The New Yorker.) There is Jolie Ngo, whose 3D-printed ceramics are based on her Vietnamese-American background; and Ronald Rael, who installed pink rockers in Trump’s US-Mexico border wall in July. He experimented with 3D printed Adobe.
Allosaurus and Camptosaurus © courtesy of the Jason Jacques Gallery and the Granada Gallery
In the meantime, some gallery owners asked their designers to work on the letter. “We didn’t rely on existing work,” says David Alhadeff, founder of The Future Perfect, who usually sells in beautifully decorated homes in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. “Chen Chen and Kai Williams created a hand-carved stone chamber pot that references Chen’s migration to the United States as a child and the wonder of modern plumbing, as well as America’s possible role as the toilet of the future.” Eric Roinestad’s ceramic work is pierced with bullet holes.
There are also non-Americans who have something to add. Joseph Walsh, a self-taught Irish designer who works with wood, brings his Enignum chair in homage to the American textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen, whose mentoring changed his career. Fumi Gallery in London is sending a series of chairs by Spanish artist Selia Aparicio, whose paintings of women in Chinese ink on plywood shapes deal with America’s racist categorizations.
“Enignum Locus Chatsworth Chair I” by Joseph Walsh © Hortense De La Jonquiere
For the big galleries like Carpenter’s Workshop, which have offices in London, Paris, New York and San Francisco, it is of course normal for employees to fly down from New York to get Nacho Carbonell’s staggering $ 300,000 palm tree and studio jobs sell $ 25,000 “banana lamp”.
Nonetheless, Design Miami has considered it appropriate to give the Beirut outfit House of Today space to showcase young Lebanese designers. “It’s a flashy act of generosity,” says founder Cherine Magrabi Tayeb. (Or Karma: Magrabi Tayeb has already raised $ 780,000 through the Beirut Blast Support Fund to help designers rebuild their studios after the explosion that devastated the city in August.)
The Lexus Design Commission is bringing British-Ghanaian designer Chrissa Amuah and Nigerian designer Tosin Oshinowo to the show with extraordinary headgear made in response to the security of our time. With Takashi Murakami, who was also invited to decorate the building’s rooftop terrace with flowers, Design Miami, under the auspices of Perrier, continues to strive for an international perspective. But if one of your main sponsors is a carbonated water brand, and travel should only be taken when needed, it’s likely correct to assume that this will be a local sober time show.
Until December 6th, miami2020.designmiami.com