By Drew Limsky
For those looking for a formal introduction to the annual Design Miami/ furniture fair (yes, the cool slash is a deliberate part of the branding), an impressive overview can be found simply by looking at the numbers: 70 exhibitions, 33 galleries, 13 countries.
And then there is the number 15. 2019’s event will be the 15th iteration of Design Miami/, which takes place December 4th through 8th, when Art Week — anchored by Art Basel Miami Beach — is in full swing.
This year will bring some welcome changes and innovations. For the first time, the fair will take place in the recently completed Pride Park, with its entrance now directly facing the entrance to Art Basel at the Miami Beach Convention Center (earning the fair high marks for access and placement).
The fair is also opening its doors to the public in new ways: the reconfigured Design Miami/ tent will feature a glass entrance to house the new Design Forum, presented by the Savannah College of Art and Design. This element of the fair will be open to the public throughout the week for cultural programming, and the discussions taking place in the Design Forum will also be broadcast outside the tent for passersby.
“We are thrilled to present this edition of Design Miami/ in the newly completed, 6-acre Pride Park,” says Jennifer Roberts, CEO of Design Miami/. “What once was a parking lot has been transformed into an additional public greenspace next to the Miami Beach Botanical Garden,” she adds.
Inside the tent, the experience will deepen. “With every edition of the fair, we see the range and quality of the pieces continue to grow,” Roberts says. “From rare pieces dating back to the 19th century to mid-century special commissions and contemporary pieces debuting at the fair addressing today’s most important societal concerns, the presentations are increasingly innovative and engage with our visitors to provide moments of discovery, furthering global interest in collectible design.”
What Roberts is describing is an event that has matured — a must-see for collectors and designers around the world. For Sandra Velasco-Diaz, the Miami-based principal of EOLO Architecture + Interiors, Design Miami/ is an annual pilgrimage. “I attend every year,” she says. “This is how I was first introduced to amazing galleries like Carpenters Workshop, Todd Merrill, Friedman Benda, and The Future Perfect. I constantly find inspiration in their use of materials and out-of-the-box points of view.”
“To me, carpentry is of great interest,” adds Aldo Puschendorf, the interior designer and owner of the Miami showroom Art & Home Gallery by Aldo Puschendorf. “I recall that in 2017, woodworking artisans from Paris showed amazingly detailed tables and chairs. It is wonderful to see the fair expand each year to bring in more countries to show their unique designs and craftsmanship.”
For the eighth year, Robert Aibel, founder and co-director of Philadelphia’s Moderne Gallery, will be on the floor, this time with vintage pieces by Paul Frankl — “one of the most important and unique American Art Deco sets to come to market,” he says — as well as works by George Nakashima, a giant in 20th-century craftsmanship, and Japanese ceramicist Makoto Yabe. “We do bring some contemporary material, but historical material always predominates,” he says. Aibel praises the fairgoers as educated and motivated to buy: “Design Miami/ has brought us a clientele that we don’t otherwise see.”
Always a favorite, Cape Town’s Southern Guild will return for the sixth time to showcase the fair’s international reach and its interactive aspect: Look for a new collection of leather hanging pods by internationally acclaimed artist Porky Hefer, entitled “Molecules.” The interiors of the pods are lined with plush sheepskin, inviting people to climb inside and get comfy. Rio de Janeiro’s Mercado Moderno will display a chandelier designed especially for the fair by Mameluca Studio and a 100-percent natural wool carpet by the textile designer Inês Schertel, who uses a 6,000-year-old technique.
Instagram and Delta Airlines have also signed on to create provocative experiences, and some of the biggest names in luxury are expected to dazzle, including Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, Lexus, and Fendi, which has commissioned the Zurich-based design studio Kueng Caputo to conjure a work called “Roman Molds.” The brick-and-leather installation is certain to add a timeless element to a fair that has undeniably come of age.
All photos courtesy of Design Miami/.