The aim of Ambra Medda, creator in 2006 of the first edition of Design Miami, was to accompany the flourishing contemporary art market with a section on artistic design, where the most established international names would enliven a new market – with the support of important galleries – connected with furnishing objects, collector’s items, one-offs and limited editions.
The phenomenon, though not a true novelty, was at least initially a real communications boom, reflecting Miami’s rise into the ranks of the cult cities of the design system, together with Milan (the unchallenged capital), London (with its experimental approach) and Paris (protagonist of Arts Décoratifs).
Ten years later, with the presence of a third curator, Rodman Primack (who took over this year from Marianne Goebl, after experience with Phillips de Pury and Gagosian, the internationally acclaimed auction house and gallery of contemporary art, respectively), the fair has clarified its philosophy as an essential appointment for successful designers and artists, as well as new talents seeking to enter a niche market, but one that is decidedly very appealing: the market of ‘art design.’
Curators and gallerists certain aim to create a sensation when they choose the names, the rediscoveries, and above all the works to be shown, collectively putting together a true Wunderkammer. They accent is still on collecting with a vivid urge of eccentricity, in search of differences and impossibilities, indulged most aptly by the rise of art design that presents itself in a provocative or iconic but always forceful, pop manner.
But let’s proceed in order. To disrupt, intentionally denying through the object something the object would tend to communicate in the tradition. Can an armchair be uncomfortable? Of course it can. The stone seats used by kings, popes and potentates of all continents across the centuries were certainly not comfortable.
Technological innovation now means that design can offer everyone, democratically, the chance to have a soft foam rubber seat. The British duo Fredrikson Stallard, with Momentum, a collection of one-offs launched for the tenth birthday of their studio, orients its work towards the sculptural object with clear reference to the organic world.
The red armchair in polyurethane, fiberglass and polyester presented during the London Design Festival – and which will also make a stop in Miami – seems to have been sculpted from the petrified lava of a volcano. A material whose perception evokes ideas of discomfort and roughness (just an impression!) and reflects the intention of Fredrikson Stallard to move towards “a conceptual, artisan, visionary design.”
This idea is also pursued by Noemi Kiss with her bestiary carpets, in a noir spirit. The Viennese artist, who alternates between fairs and galleries of contemporary art and art-design (Miart in Milan, ICFF in New York, Design Miami), focuses on the contrast between a hostile surface material like a concrete plane or an abandoned wall, to insert or pose her rugs, old recycled Persian carpets that find new life in the form of thematic collages: synapses, spider webs, ant colonies, a project for very refined tastes.
The taste for dreamy, surreal and irreverent objects also finds room in the United States, where the borderline between visual arts and arts & crafts is much flimsier. One historic witness to this is Flo Perkins, the artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico, very popular in the States (in Italy she is represented by Marina Barovier), known for her impossible vase-sculptures: cacti and primordial flowers that seem to have emerged from a work by Georgia O’Keeffe.
But there are also the very young and very up-and-coming Haas Brothers from New York, launched in Milan by Donatella Versace in 2013 and now represented by the R & Company gallery, whose one-offs priced from 7000 to 75000 dollars fit into the visionary organic trend. Appreciated by the US star system, the two brothers create iconic furniture design collections: ottomans, armchairs and sofas with legs, horns, fur and often clearly displayed genitalia, made in precious materials, in spite of their clumsy, pop and rather archaic appearance.
Among the international galleries on hand at Design Miami, Carpenter (with spaces in London, Paris and New York) has picked up on the organic trend and presents, among the new entries, Michele Oka Doner, the acclaimed American art-designer born in Florida, who will show a collection of objects, vases, lamps and chandeliers with a silver-plated bronze structure, treated with a bark effect.
To conclude, perhaps the most eclectic, ironic and visionary designers at this event, the fratelli Campana, will be at Miami with Firma Casa Gallery of Sao Paulo, to show a collection of furnishings perfect for a contemporary Wunderkammer, a prologue of the Edward Scissorhands table (in the photo) produced by Galleria O’ of Rome in 2014, which with its imaginary bird’s feet seems like it’s about to take flight.
by Patrizia Catalano