Most dealers have played safe at Design Miami Basel, held in Hall 5 off the Messeplatz, and sales were solid yesterday—but the fair still has the ability to surprise. The fifth edition includes 32 dealers from Asia, Europe and the US (27 dealers took part in 2009) with Parisians making their presence felt through 12 participating galleries. Innovations include a connecting first-floor walkway between Art Basel and Design Miami Basel, a move welcomed by the design dealers who expect to see increased footfall between the two fairs.
“The Americans are back,” said Dorte Slot, director of the newly opened Zurich branch of Dansk Møbelkunst (G15) which specialises in 20th-century Scandinavian design. The gallery sold a Finn Juhl sofa group (1950) to a US collector for E80,000. Meanwhile, a dome light by Rolf Sachs (Rattus Maximus, 2010) at Gabrielle Ammann Gallery (G01) went to a New York-based buyer for E15,000.
Evan Snyderman of R 20th Century (G22), who is showing a rare group of 1960s furniture by US designer Wendell Castle, attested to the resurgence of the New York design market: “Since September last year, we have been overwhelmed with business.” One of the most significant deals was sealed by Manhattan dealer Demisch Danant (G05) for a private commission worth $175,000 for a suite of furniture by veteran designer Maria Pergay ordered by a New York client.
Key US art collectors Norman and Irma Braman of Miami and Aspen-based Nancy and Robert Magoon were spotted darting through the aisles at the preview. Pierre Marie Giraud of the eponymous Brussels-based gallery (G14) also sold a Ron Nagle ceramic priced at $28,000 to a US collector but Japanese contemporary ceramics proved to be the surprise hit on his stand, with some works by artists on show in Europe for the first time. A Belgian collector pounced on Moonlight I, 2010 (above), a striking ceramic nest of bowls by Kyoto-based artist Fukumoto Fuku priced at around E8,000.
Giraud’s stable of Japanese artists also includes Takayuki Sakiyama, whose Untitled, 2010, swirling ceramic piece was purchased by a European buyer. “It takes time for Japanese designers to feel confident about showing their work in Europe and involves many journeys to remote studios,” said Giraud.
These new additions were a welcome inclusion among the otherwise predictable roster of blue-chip names prevalent on other stands such as Zaha Hadid (David Gill Galleries, G02), Maarten Baas (Contrasts Gallery, G11) and Studio Job (Vivid Gallery, G31). Works on view by the latter include Boot and Bucket, both 2009. These bronze pieces from the “Farm” series were purchased by a Swiss collector for around E9,000 each.
Other sales included a twisted steel bench by Pablo Reinoso (Big Beach Bale, 2010) at Carpenters Workshop Gallery to a European collector (G21, priced at E40,000, edition of eight); David Gill sold a range of pieces by Swiss-born designer Mattia Bonetti at prices ranging from E45,000 to E68,000.
Ironically, one of the talking points proved to be a pair of 19th-century French cast-iron cachepots at Galerie Perrin (G08), bought by a European collector for E85,000. Their visible interior rivets and bolts combined with the decorative floral exterior appealed to both contemporary and classical tastes.
These functional domestic items could not be more different from Bush of Iron, 2010, an unsettling seat and resting platform by Spanish designer Nacho Carbonell crafted from metal spikes (Galleria Rossella Colombari, G26, unsold at E92,000 as we went to press) that blurs the boundaries between function, design and art, the defining feature of contemporary design over the past decade.