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From a cashmere coated console to a leafy Lalanne chair: Design Miami/Basel director chooses her highlights

The fair may be smaller than usual this year but Jennifer Roberts says she has never known the collectible design market to be in such rude health

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Design Miami/Basel in 2019 Courtesy of Design Miami/Basel

Design Miami/Basel in 2019 Courtesy of Design Miami/Basel

“I don't think I've ever seen the design market have this kind of standalone success in my career,” says Jennifer Roberts, the US-based chief executive of Design Miami/Basel. The cliché that spending so much time looking at the same four walls during the pandemic has made us all more interior design conscious rings true, Roberts says. Our entrapment and a globally booming premium property market have been a boon for the high-end design world.

“In Miami, I get a call almost weekly now from somebody looking to furnish a home that they just purchased. Asking where can I find this? Who can design the space that also works with collectible design?”, Roberts says. “There are a ton of projects that have started in the past two years for which people are looking for material and I think the design auctions in March were the biggest indicator of this strength because many of the pieces went for twice the high estimate.”

So, the market is strong but organising a fair has, inevitably, been difficult. “I'd be lying if I didn't say it's been challenging because of all of the fallout from Covid around the world, but it's coming together really nicely,” Roberts says a few weeks before Design Miami/Basel opens on the Messeplatz next to Art Basel from 21 to 26 September. The fair has 26 exhibitors in the main section (down from 43 in 2019), including Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Laffanour-Galerie Downtown, Hemmerle and Friedman Benda, while 14 take part in the Curios section and five in the Design At Large exhibition.

There is widely predicted to be far fewer international visitors (particularly US collectors) to the Basel fairs this year due to travel restrictions and general vaccine hassle. But Roberts is not overly concerned by that: “Traditionally, Basel has always been a Eurocentric fair. We get a lot of visitors from France, Germany and Switzerland, and a number of collectors have told me that they're coming from the US. We've always been somewhat reliant on that local market and this year, there are five fairs on the Messeplatz, so that is going to be a big draw for the local audience.”

Roberts has made a few changes to the layout this year, most notably moving the Design at Large exhibition upstairs and replacing it with Superblue’s immersive installation by DRIFT, aka the Dutch artist duo Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta, in the huge ground floor hall. Titled Shy Synchrony, the multi-sensory work features sculptures that unfurl and close up, mimicking how flowers open and close in response to light (a phenomenon called nyctinasty). “It’s going to be very calming, in a way,” Roberts says. “So you have this moment to breathe in and experience it before walking in to the fair.”

Ahead of the fair, Roberts picks out five highlights from this year’s Design Miami/Basel.

Shylights by DRIFT Courtesy of the artists, Design Miami and Superblue

Design Miami/ x Superblue presents Shy Synchrony by DRIFT

We’re so pleased to have Superblue joining us in Basel this year, this installation is definitely going to be a highlight for anyone who visits the fair. DRIFT’s work is always so engaging and this will be the largest scale presentation of the Shylights series ever shown which will certainly be one not to miss!

Earrings (2021) by Hemmerle at Hemmerle Courtesy of Hemmerle

Earrings (2021) by Hemmerle at Hemmerle

We have two new jewellery presentations at the fair this year that I’m excited by—the debut of Carpenters Workshop Jewellery including new work by designers such as Aldo Bakker and Caroline van Hoek and Hemmerle who will exhibit with us for the first time. I am in awe of Hemmerle’s dedication to craftsmanship, their pieces really tell a story, like these earrings inspired by the cracked earth of desert and dry landscapes, but are still designed to be completely wearable.

Raw Console (2021) by Chen Furong at Objective Gallery Courtesy of Chen Furong Studio

Raw Console (2021) by Chen Furong at Objective Gallery

I am fascinated by this collection, where Chinese designer Chen Furong seeks to break the boundary between artistic sculpture and practical furniture. Inspired by Gaia, Greek goddess of earth, this collection is created with cashmere goat’s hair and looks to reflect the natural strength alongside the innate tenderness of the female spiritual profile.

Lampadaire modèle "Figure" (circa 1933-1934) by Alberto Giacometti at Bailly Gallery Courtesy of Bailly Gallery

Lampadaire modèle "Figure" (around 1933-1934) by Alberto Giacometti at Bailly Gallery

Bailly Gallery is another great new addition to our Basel fair, and the Swiss gallery is bringing an exceptional collection of 20th-century pieces by European masters including Picasso and Diego and Alberto Giacometti. The Lampadaire modèle “Figure”, by Alberto Giacometti is a really beautiful yet functional piece, it has such a delicate form and elegant silhouette that is characteristic of the designer’s work.

Fauteuil Bambiloba (2012) by Claude Lalanne at Galerie Mitterrand Courtesy of Galerie Mitterrand, photo Aurélien Mole

Fauteuil Bambiloba (2012) by Claude Lalanne at Galerie Mitterand

Claude Lalanne is such an iconic designer, it’s always a great pleasure to see her works exhibited at our fair. This year in Basel, the French gallery Galerie Mitterand will present the Fauteuil Bambiloba chair, which really epitomises Lalanne’s approach to bridging sculpture and art with practical objects. Inspired by nature, I love how Lalanne captures the delicate feel of the leaf, whilst creating a functional chair to relax into and enjoy.

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