Perhaps the sunniest of the world’s major design and arts fairs, Design Miami/ 2023 consistently provides dozens of reasons to step away from the sand and sea and into the galleries, which are conveniently located in a massive tent a few steps across the street from Art Basel Miami Beach.
With its mission to “connect the world through extraordinary collectible design,” the fair brings galleries, designers, brands, industry leaders, and enthusiasts together for highly curated live fairs in Miami Beach, Basel, Shanghai, and, as of this year, Paris. It also brings buyers.
For its 19th flagship edition earlier this month, Design Miami/ welcomed more than 50 galleries eager to present their wares to Miami’s famously deep-pocketed audience. There were several significant but predictable sales of vintage design, including a bridal tapestry circa 1820—the oldest work exhibited by the New York Gallery Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts. More interesting, though, were the contemporary works that were sold, which included a museum acquisition of Samuel Gassman’s tiara, an outsider jewelry artist. A 2021 table by Raphael Navot was sold for $64,000 by Ateliers Courbet (New York).
On the opening VIP day I spoke with several designers who had made meaningful connections and new sales opportunities within hours of arriving at the fair. One of those designers was Dutch designer Floris Wubben, represented by The Future Perfect, who as we met had just ended a conversation with a major fashion house. “They want to commission a major piece from me,” he told me, grinning ear to ear. “I could go home happy right now.”
I have done my best to avoid the cynicism and negativity that can come from witnessing the asinine indulgence of Miami Art Week, but it’s not easy to ignore pop culture stunts like the duct tape banana, the leaderboard ATM machine, or the social media frenzy at the high-profile “culture-driven” events largely hosted by credit cards and banks. Design Miami/, however, brings a different element to the conversation, a group of important creatives who remain tied to form and function. When Floris finished sharing the details of his newly won commission, he shared something with me he was even more excited about—a huge new kiln. “It’s massive. It’s going to be a game-changer.”
Design Miami/ was recently acquired by Basic.Space, an LA-based digital marketplace once described by its founder as “Soho House meets Raya,” which is perhaps the most worrisome way I could imagine describing anything intended to be both culturally relevant and enduring. The new owners intend to expand Design Miami’s e-commerce offerings, including offering exclusive collaborations with designers, additional fair locations, and “new channels and pathways for engagement with the brand throughout the year.” My take? Interest in what Design Miami/ has built is high and will only continue to grow.
This year’s fair was envisioned by curatorial director Anna Carnick with the theme “Where We Stand.” The theme emphasizes the stories behind the designs and the ways creative enterprises are capable of expressing identity and perspective. The Curator’s Award went to Nifemi Marcus-Bello for Omi Iyo, a special entrance wall piece presented by LA’s Marta Gallery. Below we’ve highlighted some of our own favorites from the show.
Formation 01 by Kohler and Samuel Ross
“I did over 250 drawings to create this; this is the antithesis of AI design,” Dr. Samuel Ross tells me as we walk through his exhibit presenting his bright orange faucet Formation 01, a collaboration between his design studio, SR_A, and Kohler.
Samuel, a former mentee of Virgil Abloh and the founder of the fashion label A-COLD-WALL*, was extremely invested in the collaboration. “I was on every call, every Zoom. I like the intimacy between our studios,” he says. The project, second in a series of artist collaborations (the first was with Daniel Arsham, who recommended Samuel to Kohler’s CEO David Kohler) aims to elevate certain aspects of Kohler’s design program, while also introducing a new way to talk about the advanced R&D process they are capable of—or as David puts it, to demonstrate they are both a “left brain and right brain company.”
“We started this collaboration really thinking about how to move water,” Samuel says. A portion of that R&D process, which took over a year-and-a-half, is creatively documented in an interactive website which was created in part to add cultural context to the design and engage younger designers.
The resulting brightly colored faucet was made using a new advanced composite material called Neolast. A sheet of water streams from the faucet’s vibrant orange head. The familiar object and function take on a sophisticated and engaging form, infusing surprise and engagement into the mundane act of washing your hands.
Lukas Wegwerth / Gallery Fumi
Gallery Fumi marked its 15th year exhibiting at Design Miami/ 2023 with a fantastical display featuring new work by Lukas Wegwerth. The artist’s Armadillo series is a collection of sculptural forms wrapped in layers of individually carved and pigmented, reclaimed wooden shingles which were also shown at the exhibition “Edge of a Pattern” at Alcova Miami.
The similarity between housing shingles and animals with protective shells and scales—fish, snakes, butterflies, and yes, armadillos—inspired the series. Armadillo, along with other works including a debut of ceramic objects and lighting by American designer Jeremy Anderson, earned the London gallery “Best Stand” at the fair this year.
Ini Archibong / Friedman Benda
If you make a beeline to Friedman Benda upon entering the Miami Beach convention center, you’re not alone. This year, the New York-based gallery brought a presentation of works by Ini Archibong, Andrea Branzi, Wendell Castle, Byung Hoon Choi, Najla El Zein, Frida Escobedo, Misha Kahn, Joris Laarman, Raphael Navot, Samuel Ross, Faye Toogood, and Thaddeus Wolfe.
In particular, Ini Archibong’s “Eno” chandelier, on view for the first time, caught our eye with beaded cords and textured glass shades in glowing, earthy tones. If you did head straight to Friedman Benda’s booth upon entering the fairgrounds, Ini may have been right behind you—the artist came to the fair immediately from his flight from his home studio in Switzerland. It was his first time in Miami, “I guess I’ll see what Miami gets me into,” he said with a grin.
Floris Wubben / The Future Perfect
Dutch designer Floris Wubben has worked with The Future Perfect—another consistent star gallery at Design Miami/—for years. Based in Haarlem, Netherlands, Floris designed a new wall piece called “Flux” to debut at the fair. The piece was made by bending and forcing extruded clay into curved ribbons that peel away from the wall on which the piece is mounted.
Future Perfect’s exhibit included a wide selection of collectibles at the intersection of art, design, and craft to celebrate The Future Perfect’s eighth anniversary at the fair, displayed in a dramatic display case of glass cubes against a dark background.
Draga and Aurel / Todd Merrill
Todd Merrill Studio put together an array of designs that blend art and function for truly gorgeous results. Not missing a beat, Draga and Aurel present the Flare Table V, IT, 2023, an exploration in transparency, minimalism, space age aesthetics, and the transfixing patterns of Optical Art. The resin table intends to mimic internal illumination as the opposing colors in the table react to ambient light.
Duo Draga Obradovic and Aurel K. Basedow—whose respective backgrounds in fashion and fine arts shine through in the table’s precision and expressiveness—did a deep dive into refraction, the three-dimensional color studies of South Korean artist Jiyong Lee, and sculptures by Vasa Mihich to achieve the table’s spectrum in Lucite sheets. “Flare is a spark of color that explodes, frees itself, and takes shape. It’s joy, experimentation, intuition, and freedom of expression,” Draga said.
Rive Roshan / Rademakers
Rademakers Gallery presented Amsterdam-based design duo Rive Roshan’s solo curio, “The Space in Between.” A thoughtfully created and placed group of objects that play with perception, light, and movement, the display evokes a comforting void for reflection and connection. Inspired by our polarized world, the centerpiece table, the exhibition’s namesake piece, is two rippling glass halves—dark and light—separated by a narrow gap of air. ““If we teach our minds to shift perspectives through curiosity and reflection, we learn to open our minds, bridge divides, and make more progressive choices,” designer Golnar Roshan said of the curio’s concept.
MARCIN RUSAK / Twenty First Gallery
Polish designer Marcin Rusak joined Twenty First Gallery’s lineup of innovative designers at Design Miami 2023 with Flora Low Coffee Table 218. The piece captures the eye with real preserved flowers emerging from the darkness of translucent black resin. Inspired by his family heritage as a third generation descendant of flower growers, the Flora table has depth, like a basin of murky liquid where delicate flowers float to the surface, and a beguiling pictorial drama.
Wonmin Park / Carpenters Workshop
“In my designs, I want objects to speak for themselves. To be beautiful, attractive and engage with their surroundings,” said Wonmin Park. At the Carpenters Workshop Gallery’s booth, Wonmin’s work joined Nacho Carbonell’s “One-Seater Concrete Tree”—which was named Best Contemporary Work by the fair—and managed to stand out even as it contributed to the wonderment of the curation as a whole. Plain Cuts_Remediated_Light_SS2301 is Wonmin’s first floor lamp, inspired by volcanic formations and made from a colored resin base that complements the rest of the designer’s Plain Cuts_Stone&Steel series with its light, glowing, craggy form.
Marianne Huotari / Hostler Burrows
Marianne Huotari’s intricate ceramic wall rug, Shangri-la, joined Hostler Burrows’ odd and animated collection, offering a portal to an unusual, bright landscape. Made primarily from glazed stoneware, the work is based on the traditional Finnish textile technique, ryijy, which translates to “thick cloth.” Marianne creates her masterpieces by sewing hundreds of hand-sculpted ceramic beads and petals onto a metal frame.
Angela Damman / Sarah Myerscough Gallery
Sarah Myerscough’s booth at Design Miami 2023, “The Nature of Things,” celebrates the transformation of natural materials into covetable collectibles, made all the more desirable by the way the material takes agency in the design process. Angela Damman’s Eta chandelier fit the bill perfectly. Angela partners with local artisans in Yucatán, Mexico to create textiles from native plant fibers—in the chandelier, sansevieria plant fiber takes center stage. The chandelier and Angela’s other works bring form to the material traditions and culture of the Yucatán. The shaggy puffball chandelier glows, alive with the origin story at its heart.