Like so many other festivals, this year’s Design Miami roared back to life in 2021 as 28,000 design studios, collectors, artists, and enthusiasts from around the world swarmed Miami Design District for the 17th edition of the festival.
Wava Carpenter, Design Miami’s first employee 15 years ago and now the fair’s curatorial director, determined the very post-pandemic-2021 theme: “Human-Kind,” offering “visions for a more equitable and interconnected future.” Over just four days, collectible design took center stage to make such a future feel very proximate.
See some our favorites below.
New Digital Initiatives
It is 2021: the year of vaccinations, Kim and Kanye’s divorce, and of course, the rise of NFTs. This year Design Miami offered several notable new digital innovations and tech integrations to go beyond the physical fair. The Design Miami Mobile App allowed visitors to embark on 3D tours and buy exhibited works with a click. Design Miami also accepted cryptocurrency in its online marketplace for the first time at this year’s fair.
Most buzzworthy of all, Design Miami introduced NFTs to the fair with a curated collection, on sale through OpenSea, with works by creatives like Alex Proba, Job Smeets, and Misha Kahn. “Living Spaces” by Alex Proba is listed at 50 Ethereums, or about $210,000.
“Tomorrow Land” by Studio Proba and Enjoy the Weather
Greeting attendees with oversized, colorful shapes that are as much seating arrangements as they are sculpture, “Tomorrow Land” aspires to be a big interactive playground. In light of all of the festival’s tech integrations, the play doesn’t stop there: Studio Proba’s sculptures enter the virtual world with their own accompanying app from Enjoy the Weather. The commissioned work lives on beyond Design Miami—it will remain in situ until May 2022.
“Halo” by Bradley Bowers at The Future Perfect
The Future Perfect showed works by 15 artists in an extensive display of collectible contemporary design. For several, including New Orleans-based artist Bradley Bowers, the show marked their debut on The Future Perfect roster and at Design Miami. Bradley showed “Halo,” three light sculptures of various sizes sculpted to fold, pleat, pinch, and tuck in a dynamic movement of light and shadow. Origami is a clear inspiration behind “Halo,” which won the festival’s award for Best Contemporary Work.
Mabeo Studio’s “Kompa” Presented by Fendi
Fendi has created collections with designers like Sarah Coleman, Sabine Marcelis, and Formafantasma—and for this year’s festival, the luxury fashion house teamed up with Botswana designer Peter Mabeo. Peter’s attention to form, function, and the human element of craftsmanship caught the eye of Fendi in his 2017 project with Inès Bressand. “Kompa” is the collaboration’s resulting 10-piece collection, exploring materials and traditional techniques from Peter’s native Botswana, from basket weaving to metalworking.
“Earth Year 2100” by Atra
In their interactive booth, Mexico City’s Atra design studio imagined the future, only 80 years down the line. The studio asks attendees to imagine a world in which “our mundane lifestyle has been taken over by technology” in this showcase of new, collectible chairs and sofas as well as sculptural tables and a vibrating meditation chair for Resonate. The display won Best in Show: Best Curio Presentation.
“The Bedroom” by Harry Nuriev
Russian architect and designer Harry Nuriev is known for his Instagram-worthy explorations in texture and color, using a single hue for immersive displays. At Design Miami that color was silver. Through a moon gate a metallic mattress, sheets, and pillows reflect colored light from the ceiling in a magnetic display. Inspired by the mess of sheets and pillows at childhood slumber parties, Nuriev’s curio feels like a portal to the future, filled with nostalgic, childlike wonder.
“Stone Flow” by Kohler x Daniel Arsham
Kohler is new to Design Miami, but with Daniel Arsham’s rock-like sculptures it felt right at home. Daniel’s 3D-printed ceramic sink and mounded sculpture give the appearance of melted stone, formed by hand and left in the sun too long. Merging sustainability with creative experimentation, high design with the humble bathroom sink, “Stone Flow” and “Rock .01” also inspired Kohler to make a substantial donation to DigDeep, a nonprofit working to bring clean water to families on the Navajo Nation.