Fairs USA

Design Miami move pays dividends

Exhibitors positive about fair’s relocation from Design District to site near Art Basel Miami Beach

Clockwise from top: Bae Sehwa "steam" bench, David Wiseman's "Facet Vase and Branch Sculpture", and Amaral-Bostyn's "Del Campo", made from vintage bicycle parts

MIAMI. This year’s relocation of Design Miami from the Design District to a site adjacent to Art Basel Miami Beach has had an immediate impact, according to exhibitors and collectors. “We didn’t want to come when it was in the Design District,” said new exhibitor Loic Le Gaillard of London’s Carpenters Workshop Gallery. “Now this fair makes total sense, being right beside the contemporary art fair.” Having sold the light installation Swarm by design group rAndom International to a European collector for $180,000, he added: “It’s been a very happy US debut for us.”

Many of the 15 dealers at the fair said the same. “So far sales are as good as Basel and we are yet to see all the contemporary art dealers,” said Didier Krzentowski of Galerie Kreo of Paris.

The fair is heavily focused on contemporary design, but also has four key specialists of more historic material: Demisch Danant; Galerie Patrick Seguin; Jousse Entreprise; and Sebastian + Barquet. Giants from the American canon such as Buckminster Fuller and Donald Judd are on view, with New York Sebastian + Barquet showing Judd’s Stool #43, made under licence in his lifetime, on offer for $25,000. Alongside items such as this are the works of living designer, such as Wendell Castle, Tom Sachs and Michael Coffey, whose Mozambique wooden side-table at Todd Merrill, New York, found a buyer for $30,000. Alessandro Mendini’s mosaic table, Tavolino, at Galerie Kreo, sold for $46,000. The same dealer sold Cake Stool and Harumaki Chair by the Campana brothers for $18,500 and $11,000 respectively. “The Campanas have an international language, a playfulness and zest for life,” said Nicolas Chwat of Perimeter Art + Design, Paris, which also shows their work.

In addition to the already established names, the fair is providing exceptional exposure for designers in their late 20s and early 30s. Korean dealer Gallery Seomi sold out three “steam” benches by Bae Sehwa to Brazilian, American and European collectors at prices up to $28,000. Joseph Walsh, a 31-year-old Irish “artist designer”, sold his Enignum II table at Todd Merrill, asking price $145,000, to architect Rafael Viñoly, which was an even greater coup.

Dealers in mid-century masters also met with success. Jousse Entreprise of Paris sold a Mexican Bookcase, 1953, by Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand to a Russian buyer for E130,000. A Pierre Paulin Ribbon Chair, 1966, in original Larsen fabric, was also bought by a Russian, for $30,000. Patrick Seguin, who is showing a collection of work by Jean Royère which took the dealer two years to assemble, found buyers for all the major pieces within a day of the opening. Prices achieved included Ours Polaire Sofa and Armchairs, 1949, sold for $800,000, Eléphanteau sofa, 1952, for e260,000, and e125,000 for Croisillion Bed, 1949.

Who are the buyers? Private collectors are in the ascendant, in the absence of some leading curators and interior decorators. Contrary to expectations, Latin Americans have had minimal impact on trade; even classic pieces by the Brazilian modernist Joaquim Tenreiro were snapped up at R 20th Century for e350,000 by a collector from Brussels. “These col¬lectors buy independently of advisers,” said Parisian dealer Didier Krzentowski, adding: “They are interested in content and context.”

The interplay between function, content and beauty is explored by the Belgian gallery D&A Lab, which invites artists to make functional pieces. “My ambition is to have objects layered with content. The goal is to make the perfect object,” said D&A Lab’s Dirk Meylaerts. On his stand is Del Campo, a bike made from vintage parts by artist duo Amaral-Bostyn. Despite the bicycle’s cast-aluminium seat and its silk-sheathed wheels, the collector who paid $17,000 for this unique vehicle can ride her purchase home. “It’s really simple for artists to push the idea of design,” explains Meylaerts. “But we also want to push the boundaries of art to make it less sacred.”

Bringing insight into the subject was Miami’s collecting pioneer Micky Wolfson who put things into a historical perspective. “In 1925 the US President rejected an invitation from the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs (where the term Art Deco was coined), to show in Paris. Coolidge declared that we had no indigenous design nor any modern design.” The US became a leading exporter of design. “Design Miami is a reflection of this,” said Wolfson.

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