Effect Magazine’s U.S. design fairs correspondent Elana Castle reflects on a vibrant showing at Design Miami 2022
Design Miami returned to Pride Park in full force for its 18th year and with pandemic restrictions firmly relegated to the past. Fifty galleries and Curios exhibited a dynamic representation of furniture, art and objects in response to the theme The Golden Age: Looking to the Future.
“I selected the theme The Golden Age with the ambition of exploring how it might be applied across great scratches of human existence, from the distant past, to our collective future,” explains curatorial director Maria Cristina. “Design Miami’s flagship fair at Miami Beach is always full of energy and optimism for the future. At a time when human beings are challenged in unprecedented ways, I hope that the theme will offer a source of inspiration to imagine and shape a brighter future for human beings and the planet.”
A swell of positivity and energy was palpable, with exuberance in both booth design and the array of product represented. A few galleries made their design Miami debut, including the excellent French contemporary studio (and Salon Art + Design veterans) Negropontes Galerie; New York’s Ippodo Gallery – who placed strong emphasis on exploring an extensive collection of Japanese art and craft – and Diletante42, who presented a strong showing of mid-century Brazilian furniture. US heavyweights Todd Merrill, Wexler Gallery and Moderne were brilliant in their curation of both contemporary and vintage pieces.
Esteemed purveyors of historical design, Magen H Gallery, presented a particularly stellar collection in the form of finely crafted iconic mid-century designs by visionaries like Hervé Baley, Pierre Chapo, Pierre Jeanneret, Le Corbusier and more, as well as contemporary designs by Studio Giancarlo Valle and Natasha Dakhli, set against a beautiful wallpaper by Élitis.
The show’s overt optimism was also evident in the overall representation of materiality with a perceived weighting in favor of more opulent materials, polished versus tarnished or painted metals and a general sense of whimsy evident in many of the pieces and booths designs.
Elana Castle now focuses on three international booths as prime examples of the bold and dauntless approach to both booth design and curation of collections across the fair:
Galerie BSL (Paris): The Power of Biomorphism
Galerie BSL presented some never-before-seen work from a selection of artists known for their distinctive approach to form, craftsmanship and conceptual thinking. Gallery founder Béatrice Saint-Laurent (a former executive at the French Ministry of Culture) explains the thinking behind The Power of Biomorphism: “It proposed to explore new frontiers in the ability of objects to express life forms. This presentation is an invitation to embrace both design and nature differently, with works endowed with a fictional dimension that appeal to one’s ability to question and dream.”
This otherworldliness was evident in all the works, including Ayala Serfaty’s Soma series (soma is the Greek word for the human body). Serfaty’s contributions included a wall piece composed of luminous sculptures evoking biomorphic forms, based on an elaborate process of interweaving thinly blown glass. “The glass veins always remain visible under the translucent polymer skin,” the artist explains. “They embody both the power and fragility of the human being.”
Pia Maria Raeder’s works included a particularly striking set of barstools and tables envisioned as functional creatures. The series represents a bronze evolution of the artist’s Stardust series, which had originally been fabricated from thousands of metalised beechwood beads. “Living organisms are all made of this stardust that has crossed the universe for billions of years,” says the artist. “I want to give my own interpretation of this natural phenomenon.”
Nacho Carbonell’s new one-off pieces from his Luciferase series embody the artist’s tactile approach to sculpture, arousing surprise with their intriguing textures and integrated lighting. “The root of the word luciferase is ‘light-bearer’ and refers to the system used by flora and fauna living in the abyss, in the total darkness of the deep sea,” says Carbonell. “I see these pieces as creatures glowing with light.”
Southern Guild (Cape Town): The Sacred & The Mundane
Celebrating over a decade exhibiting at Design Miami, this stellar South African gallery again garnered enthusiastic responses, underlining the sense of collaboration that takes place between gallery founders Trevyn and Julian McGowan and the artists that they represent – a mentorship that has nurtured some of the country’s most celebrated talent.
Many of these artists, now firmly established in the global design landscape, exhibited at the fair, demonstrating the gallery’s commitment to South African talent and an exceptional attention to detail. “We have found a home away from home at Design Miami, a platform that appreciates the unsung perspectives of artists and designers from the African continent,” says Trevyn McGowan.
The booth included two colossal (and intricate) ceramic and bronze sculptures by Zizipho Poswa which draw inspiration from the elaborate hairstyles traditionally worn by women across the African continent. “Through this cultural lens, hair becomes a script for language, for the carrying of meaning and the celebration of self as an act of defiance,” explains McGowan.
Andile Dyalvane’s three new large-scale ceramic and copper sculptures was inspired by the large nests of sociable weaver birds that the artist spent time studying on recent travels to the plains of the Karoo desert and the Northern Cape of South Africa. The booth, designed as an inkundla (a domestic interior, from the Xhosa word for the communal area at the forefront of a homestead’s cattle enclosure), featured three separate but interleading ‘rooms’ which also included Rich Mnisi’s Nyoka (Snake) console and Vutlhari (Wisdom) chandelier, and Dokter and Misses’ new hand-painted server, Talking Backwards, which contrasted the overall fluidity of the booth with a more angular aesthetic.
The piece commemorated the birth of the design duo’s first child, evoking a tension between science and nature, trauma and joy reinforcing the booth’s underlying ethos.
Sarah Myerscough (London): Material Shores
In their booth Material Shores (which was awarded the Best of Show for Best Gallery Presentation along with Magen H Gallery), Sarah Myerscough Gallery resisted the Miami-esque zeitgeist with a decidedly understated booth populated by overtly handcrafted pieces. “We typically lean into even more subtle colours and forms,” explains Myerscough.
While the team may have brought a brighter palette to Miami, the presentation was still the immersive, museum-quality collection of functional design and art objects that we’ve come to expect from the UK-based gallery, championing innovative, sustainable and restorative design practices. The booth, in its palettes of bleached gold, captures the organic world experience as represented by what Myerscough describes as “an unworked shoreline, the grounding sensation of sunbaked sand and texture, the sightlines, and the sense of rhythm and the interconnectedness of all living and natural things.”
The collection features work crafted from sisal, rice straw, willow, grasses, and bleached, salvaged, foraged or ‘cleft’ wood. The booth’s centrepiece was an eco-contemporary reimagining of the chandelier by Angela Damman, hand-crafted from sansevieria plant fibre which felt both opulent, luxurious and whimsical.
Lin Fanglu’s meticulously hand-knotted, stitched and pleated fabric sculptures were placed alongside two blonde pups of sisal from Fernando Laposse and a sinuous seven-foot knot of rice straw from Mami Kato. Egeværk’s new masterpieces in Danish ash were beautifully accentuated by Ernst Gamperl’s green-turned vessels of maple. “The collection is a witty and playfully elegant challenge to the viewer to meet materials as themselves, to engage with the tactility, narrative and ethical provenance of the objects we surround ourselves with,” says Mysercough. “Material Shores represents the mission of the gallery: to argue for a new approach to design, one steeped in respect for the natural world, that paves the way forward to a less destructive vision of the future.”