Dealers double as patrons: Design Miami/Basel 2007

The dealer-artist relationship becomes more prominent as galleries strive for individuality, while Jean Prouvé's dominance is undeniable


The second edition of Design Miami/Basel, sponsored by HSBC Private Bank, opened last night with strong sales and considerable inter- national interest. The fair also announced that Swedish design group, FRONT, had won its Designer of the Future Award.

Last year, the fledgling fair was staged in a deconsecrated church, but has now relocated to the Markthalle, a vast domed structure dating from the 1920s. Twenty-two galleries are taking part, five up from last year.

“Given the space available, I have encouraged the dealers to curate their shows with a definite point of view, as opposed to just displaying merchandise,” says Ambra Medda, show founder and director. “I looked at what every other design fair was doing and decided to do the opposite.”

A clear trend is the emergence of the dealer patron, commissioning cutting-edge design. “I don’t buy and sell vintage furnishings,” says Clémence Krzentowski of Galerie Kreo, Paris. “I prefer to work closely with designers in producing things that amaze collectors and are of this time.” His limited editions include a Wieki Somers tea pot in the shape of a rat’s skull with its own fur tea cosy, priced at €1,000.

Zaha Hadid is the most prominent contemporary designer represented with three dealers featuring her work. The Kenny Schachter Rove Gallery sold Hadid’s multifunctional “sculpture”, titled Belu, edition of 12, for €75,000 within minutes of the fair opening.

Jean Prouvé, considered the father of prefabs, is the most visible period designer at the fair. Four dealers, Jousse, Patrick Sequin and Galerie Downtown, all from Paris, and Magen H. Gallery from Chicago, feature the late modernist designer’s furniture. Galerie Patrick Sequin had a 1950 desk for €200,000 reserved within the first half hour. One of Prouvé’s prefab houses, constructed in 1944 specifically for war-torn Alsace-Lorraine, is also on sale for €280,000 with the same dealer. This seems a modest price compared with the $4.9m paid for Prouvé’s immaculately restored Maison Tropicale, one of three prototypes, at Christie’s last week

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper Art Basel Daily as 'Design Miami/Basel dealers double as patrons'