Design Miami plans global expansion

The fair, now backed by Art Basel’s owners, targets China


Last night’s star-studded opening of Design Miami in the Wynwood district coincided with the announcement that Art Basel Miami Beach’s parent company, MCH Messe Schweiz had taken a significant stake in the three-year-old fair, founded by Craig Robins. He confirmed that MCH has bought a 50% stake in Design Miami Basel and 10% in Design Miami and that expansion to other territories is possible.

The speed at which Design Miami has become such an established force reflects the growing attraction of the modern and contemporary design market. The fair’s self-confident approach from the start has also played its part. Its “Designer of the Year”, launched in 2005, which anointed Zaha Hadid and Marc Newson, has set a high standard.

This year, the chosen designer, Japan’s Tokujin Yoshioka, has created an installation called Tornado, made from 2m over-sized drinking straws, which takes up the entire top floor of the fair’s main venue, the Moore Building.

The association with ABMB is already allowing founding curator and director, Ambra Medda, to develop a global strategy. Ms Medda confirmed to The Art Newspaper that she will be travelling to China in January with incoming ABMB co-director Marc Spiegler, to explore opportunities for expansion of Design Miami. “It’s definitely possible to extend what we do to new territories,” she said. “The show is modular, and components such as Designer Talks and Designer of the Year can travel.” Tony Joyce, global head of marketing and communications at sponsor HSBC Private Bank said: “This is the way the design world is going, it is gaining in international reach.”

Of course, global strategies rely upon strong demand. Celebrities were quick off the mark, including Donna Karan, who bought a coffee table designed by Serio Victorio, from New York’s Magen H Gallery (20). Calvin Klein and Jerome Chazen, co-founder of the Liz Claiborne clothing label, were in the aisles and ex-Disney president Michael Ovitz was also looking to buy. The museum world was represented by curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Arts & Design and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

As befits a design fair, some of the stands stood out from the crowds. On R 20th Century (13), stand designer Claudia Dias took her green and yellow palette from the legendary Oscar Niemeyer as the backdrop for his 13-piece collection of furniture. Two sets were sold for around $200,000 each to private collectors.

There are eight new dealers this year, although three have not returned, bringing numbers up from 21 to 26, including London’s Albion Gallery, which sold several David Adjaye pieces from his “Monoforms” series, including Galilee, 2007 ($60,000) and Luxor, 2007 ($40,000) to a Parisian and American collector. It also sold a Campana Brothers’ chair with table for $150,000.

Others also reported strong initial sales. Galerie Downtown (23) sold at least seven pieces by mid-century designer Jean Royère (between $25,000-$45,000) and, within minutes, Moss Gallery (21) sold two of Maarten Baas’ chromed clay standing electric fans (which helped cool the stand) for $34,000 each.

One dealer’s stand was literally stripped bare: Kenny Schachter Rove (3) sold his painted floorboards designed by Richard Woods, Logo 41, 2007, for $35,000.

“Five years ago I only had a few collectors who would spend $350,000 a year, today it is closer to 30,” said Franklin Getchell, co-owner of Moss. If this level of growth continues, it looks like ABMB made a good investment.

For more on Design Miami see p4.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Fair plans global expansion'