June, and the occasion of Basel’s Art week, brought with it once more Design Miami/ Basel and its laying out of the broad stage of contemporary, high-end design.
And what is high-end design? Featuring mainly installations, one-off pieces and limited editions, Design Miami/ Basel has certainly always been a showcase for collectors with money to collect, and their sense of discrimination has generally led to design which is experimental and avant garde, if not outré, or intellectual. As you will see, we had the experimental again this year, but there was also the sense that the balance had swung from the “edgy” to the “polished”. Perhaps it was simply that collector-design has grown up, matured, gone mainstream?
Let’s have a look …
The commentary of forms
While their Botanica exhibit at the Spazio Rossana Orlandi was a star of Milan 2011, Gallery Libby Sellers showed Studio Formafantasma’s graduation piece, Moulding Tradition, and its more recent thematic follow-up, Colony. Both projects comment on the cross-currents of influence between Italy and North Africa, the first looking at North African immigration into Sicily (both from the time of the Moorish conquests and today’s economic immigration); the second going the other way, looking at Italian colonization of Africa. Complex and thoughtful, both projects are a dazzling (literal) cross-weaving of approaches and ideas.
A combination vacuum cleaner-tea service which is moved around like a rickshaw, this blithely incongruous piece is part of Makkink & Bey’s “Crate” series for Spring Projects, exploring how the materiality of a crate can be subverted. Somehow, the golden thread wrap makes it sublimely beautiful.
Having shown they have their pulse on materials technology trends in Milan with “Chapter 1” of their Conversation Piece project (coincidentally named, given the theme of the Design Miami/ Basel’s Designers of the Future brief this year (see below)) – Beatrice Brovia and Nicolas Cheng returned here with “Chapter 2: Façades”. The new pieces use tools and materials ordinarily associated with sculpture and architecture to initiate a conversation between material, form and purpose. In the Involucrum I necklace above, What first appears a soft gathering of cloth is, surprisingly, delicately cut, yet impervious onyx.
More fairy-tale design, with a touch of hard edged magic (and the mesh/vertices trend), from Kiki Van Eijk.
Designers of the Future: Only interact …
Viennese duo Mischer’Traxler, showed three pieces as one of this year’s W Hotels Designers of the Future, on the brief: “Conversation Pieces” – pieces meant to “trigger an immediate response in the viewer”. Taking the theme to literal extremes, each of the three pieces is itself a conversation, between lamps (“Relumine”), between people and objects (the “It Takes More Than One” mirror only works when two or more people stand in front of it; the “Collective Works” installation creates vases from rolls of wood veneer – sensors activate the rolling mechanism only when there are people nearby and the more people there are, the more marker pens are pressed on to the vase surface to color it).
Asif Khan’s “Cloud” installation was a popular piece and certainly generated the requisite conversation of the W Hotels Designers of the Future brief. The soap bubbles and floats effortlessly up to form a foamy canopy, meant to suggest an architecture of the future: “light, intelligent and simple.”
Play of Light
Letting the soft, fuzzy wall of gentle starlight from this piece wash all over you is a great experience, and it was even nicer to learn that this is the work of Astrid Krogh, whose gorgeously elegant Swirl lamps we had previously reported on from Milan and London in 2008.
Emulating the soft, gentle, mysterious glow of underground crystal caverns, Nacho Carbonell’s new lamps are in fact made of epoxy resin overlaid on LEDs. Carbonell was, of course, one of Design Miami / Basel’s former Designers of the Future.
A touch of good, old-fashioned luxury
New York gallery Demisch Danant returns with a full-blown retrospective on the popular post-war designer Joseph André Motte, who left his mark on France through his designs for the Reconstruction.
The Power to Shock?