6 Compelling Themes We Saw at Design Miami

In Circulation by Rooms Studio. Photography courtesy of Rooms Studio.

Returning to Miami Beach for its 15th edition from December 3–8, Design Miami, an annual furniture and collectibles event occurring during Miami Art Week, debuted in new environs in Pride Park, adjacent to the entrance to Art Basel Miami Beach in the convention center. Alongside more than 70 museum-quality exhibitions of 20th- and 21st-century furniture, lighting, and objets dart by 34 of the worlds most distinguished collectible design galleries and other top designers and studios, Design Miami also unveiled a series of inspired collaborations with high-profile brands, such as Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and Panerai.

Throughout the week, additional programming, panels, workshops, and film screenings took place in its Design Forum, where visitors engaged with the ideas and influences of some of design’s foremost creators, including Humberto Campana and Fernando Laposse, whose Pink Beasts were among the most talked-about creations at the fair. Reflecting some of the shifts in the design and art marketplace, Design Miami’s curator Aric Chenset the tone for this year’s fair with the theme “Elements: Water,” which many participants riffed on in their presentations. Other themes also emerged that forged conceptual foundations linking designers of the past with those of the future. Here are highlights:

Water: The fair's theme was evident in many presentations, but these two were standouts.

Virgil Abloh's Aqua Alta series. Photography courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery. 

In its take on “Elements: Water,” Carpenters Workshop Gallery presented Virgil Ablohs Aqua Alta series of sinking” furniture, which draws from the tidal peaks that affect Venetian life and calls attention to rising sea levels.

Bubble archair and Coral light sculpture by Lea Méstres. Photography courtesy of Galerie Scene Ouverte

Galerie Scene Ouverte showcased an ocean-inspired Bumble armchair and Coral light sculpture by Léa Mestres within an underwater tableau.

Vanguard female designers: The influential creativity of female designers past and present stood out in several exhibitions.

Desk by Jacqueline Lecoq and Antoine Philippon. Photography courtesy of Peter Blake Gallery.

Peter Blake Gallery’s Curio surveyed works by 20th-century award-winning French designer Jacqueline Lecoq, who with her partner, Antoine Philippon, pioneered and mastered the ability to graft the industrialism of postwar design with an aestheticism otherwise left behind in early 20th-century design.

Charlotte Perriand's works were among those on display, alongside those of Jean Prouvé and Pierre Jeanneret, at Galerie Patrick Seguin's space. Photography courtesy of Galerie Patrick Seguin.

Galerie Patrick Seguin emphasized the importance of French visionary Charlotte Perriand with its presentation of a cabinet made for the Cite Cansado in Mauritania.

Charlotte Perriand's Table à Gorge. Photography courtesy of Magen H Gallery.

Magen H Gallery also presented various works by Perriand inspired by trips to Japan, including a unique example of her iconic Table à Gorge.

Jay Sae Jung Oh's Savage chair. Photography courtesy of Salon 94 Design. 

Salon 94 Design showcased the new work of Jay Sae Jung Oh, a young industrial designer and founder of pet accessories brand Boo Oh whose one-of-a-kind furniture collection Savage included pieces made of recycled objects wrapped in fine leather straps and shown alongside the works of Gaetano Pesce, with whom Jay worked at the onset of her design career. 

A modern take on traditional crafts: Many designers reimagined traditional artisanal crafts and materials such as glass, ceramic, and sisal in contemporary ways.

TAKT PROJECT's Curio exhibition of Glow Grow lighting. Photography courtesy of TAKT PROJECT.

Showing works being made in real time, TAKT PROJECT's Curio exhibition focused on the creation of a Glow Grow lighting collection using LED light to solidify and melt resin, causing the material to grow like an iceberg and morph into new shapes as the lighting changes.

Pink Beasts by Fernando Laposse. 

For the debut of his Pink Beasts, a collection of tassels, hammocks, and sloths made of long, pink strands of sisal and suspended at Design Miami and through the trees and on lampposts in Miami's Design District as part of a 2019 Neighborhood Commission, London-based Mexican designer Fernando Laposse explored materials and techniques native to Mexico, collaborating with textile designer Angela Damman and local artisans in Sahcabá, Yucatán to create them.

Modern African and Japanese influences: Diverse and avante-garde creations from established and emerging artists were on display. 

Practically Everywhere cabinet collection by Dokter and Misses. Photography courtesy of Hayden Phipps and Southern Guild.

Southern Guild from Cape Town showed the work of some of the most avant-garde contemporary designers working out of South Africa, including Andile Dyalvane, Madoda Fani, Dokter and Misses, and Porky Hefer.

BODY 16-1 by Chie Aoki. Photography courtesy of Sokyo Gallery.

Sokyo Gallery from Kyoto represented Japanese artists working across mediums as diverse as textiles, lacquer, ceramics, paint, and photography.

Untitled by Takuro Kuwata. Photography courtesy of Takuro Kuwata and Pierre Marie Giraud. 

Pierre Marie Giraud highlighted Japanese craftspeople, including Takuro Kuwata, whose experimental ceramics explored porcelain’s potential using purposeful wabi-sabi techniques.

Retrospective views: Several galleries showcased important early 20th-century works.

Paul Frankl's Speed Lounge Chairs. Photography courtesy of Moderne Gallery. 

Moderne Gallery presented a thoughtful selection of rare furniture, including Paul Frankl’s Speed Lounge Chairs, one of his most famous designs, made for his own New York City apartment in 1933. While the chairs were typically fully upholstered, the unique set he created for himself was made of cork.

Sofa and chairs by Joaquim Tenreiro. Photography courtesy of Mercado Moderno. 

A conceptual presentation by Mercado Moderno celebrated the life and works of Portuguese-born Joaquim Tenreiro, the creator of the first examples of modern Brazilian design.

Sustainability and recycled materials and objects: Creativity and eco-consiousness comingled in a variety of exhibitions.

The Balenciaga Sofa by Harry Nuriev. Photography courtesy of Crosby Studios. 

Crosby Studios teamed up with designer Harry Nuriev in collaboration with Balenciaga to create its Curio piece called the Balenciaga Sofa. Inspired by an overstuffed recliner and made from unsellable clothing and off-cuts from the Balenciaga warehouse, the sofa spread the message of sustainability far and wide after it went viral on Instagram.

In Circulation's Bus Stop Benches. Photography courtesy of Rooms Studio. 

In its Curio exhibition called In Circulation, young artists Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia, founders Rooms Studio, presented works inspired by their Soviet-era roots, including graffitied benches that drew upon their memories of public seating carved with names and messages in their hometown of Tbilisi, Georgia.

Read more: 10 Highlights of Miami Art Week

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