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Design Miami/Basel 2006 kicks off in style

The fair makes it clear that contemporary design dictates the taste of the moment

The first edition of Design Miami/Basel, which opened yesterday, has achieved a double coup: it is showing some of the best design pieces to be seen on the market in the last three months and has united 17 of the most high-profile dealers in the auspicious setting of the neo-Gothic Elisabethen Church, erected between 1857 and 1865, located behind the Kunsthalle.

The French art fair FIAC was the first to combine design works and contemporary art in 2004. Then, Design 05 held last December during Art Basel Miami Beach was a huge hit. Now, the Swiss event is hoping to emulate the success of its Miami counterpart by bringing together the right buyers, the best works and the most striking venue.

The new fair is certainly timely: Lounge Chair (1998) by the Australian designer Marc Newson recently sold at auction at Phillips de Pury in New York for a stunning $520,000. Jostling for attention at the Basel event are some of Paris’s top dealers, including Patrick Seguin (T3) who hopes to sell Serge Mouille’s 1956 Saturne Ceiling Lamp for around E400,000.

Manhattan gallery Antik (C6) has a 1933 Aktaeon mask by Axel Salto at $85,000 while the Shanghai gallery Contrasts (C4) is exhibiting giant celadon skittles by Peter Ting (the gallery refused to disclose the price). Gabrielle Ammann gallery from Cologne (C2) has installed a lacquered bench (Iceberg, 2003) by the UK-based star architect Zaha Hadid, one of an edition of nine, on sale for around E40,000.

Modernist works look more at home in the concrete foyer theatre underneath the church. The Vitra museum, Weil am Rhein, is displaying Prouvé tables on the staircase leading down to the theatre. The museum plans to hold a show of works by the French designer next year.

A Scala light fitting by Poul Henningsen made for a cinema in Aarhus in 1955 is on sale for E38,000 at Dansk Moebelkunst gallery (T2). The R20th-century gallery from New York (C8) is showing bespoke furniture by the Brazilian Joaquim Tenreiro while Vittorio Introini’s Judd-like aluminium bookcase on sale at Philippe Denys’s stand (C7) contrasts with Galerie Downtown’s (C5) Nuage coloured bookcase by Charlotte Perriand (around E150,000).

Look out for other star objects such as a Martin Szekely table at Kreo gallery (T7), on offer for E38,000, or a 1968 ornament representing a drop of rain by Gino Marotta on sale for E18,000 at La Galerie Italienne (T9). The fair continues until Friday at 2pm.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper Art Basel Daily as 'Design Miami/Basel kicks off in style'