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Design Miami Basel: a report from the art design fair

Between vintage pieces and contemporary incursions, some thought on art design 2018 from Design Miami Basel

The fascination of art design (staged at Design Miami Basel from June 12th to 17th) comes from its absolute freedom. Because this is a world in which the limitations due to industrial seriality, manufacturing feasibility or the need not to levitate the price to the public do not exist. And where, in principle, also finding the means to create daring works should not be an issue since collectors do not skimp when it comes to bringing home a piece, provided it is specially positioned by a trusted gallery.

The overwhelming presence of vintage design

It would therefore be reasonable to expect a very high level of research at Design Miami Basel. But wandering among the galleries, it soon turns out that the projects that arouse curiosity are not so many. In fact, most of the spaces are dedicated to vintage furniture, in the vast majority of the 40s and 50s.

Cabinet by Mathieu Matégot, 1958. Matthieu Richard Gallery, Paris

Design Art as an investment

This reminds us that in the art design world the pieces are first and upmost seen as investments. An economic bets in which different and complementary attitudes coexist to which Design Miami Basel responds with a perfectly adequate offer.

This market, where money really is not lacking, is driven by two attitudes. The first one is that of collectors who go on the safe side, buying the original vintage pieces at stellar prices. Will they increase in value? It is almost certain. Much? Probably not, unless you are in the presence of very rare items of historical importance. Like the magnificent cabinet bar, disc-holder and stereo by Mathieu Matégot, a unique piece from 1958 presented at Design Miami Basel by the Matthieu Richard Gallery in Paris. Architectural like a building, multi-material and poly-functional ante litteram and finished even in hidden parts like a jewel, it was sold in a moment.

The role of gallerists

Next to these collectors, in love with the 40s and 50s, there are also those who venture into incursions into the contemporary. Where the scouting talent of gallerists is key (just like in art) and where their flair for understanding the market counts as much as that of financial managers in investment banks. The bet, here, is more risky given that when you buy a relatively less established name it is impossible to predict the commercial value to come.

Not to miss. A personal best of from Design Miami Basel

Lapislazzuli, by Nucleo for Ammann Gallery, Colonia

As a whole, therefore, given that the number of galleries dedicated exclusively to contemporary pieces is smaller than those focused on vintage, Design Miami Basel does not offer that experimentation that could be rationally expected. And the impression, in general, is that research focuses mainly on the processing of materials to obtain stunning aesthetic effects.

Nucleo for Ammann Gallery

This is what Piergiorgio Robino di Nucleo did, for example, in his squared Lapislazzuli stools for the Ammann Gallery in Cologne. Made of epoxy resin with inserts of petrified wood and pigments have a smooth surface, apparently marble, with amazing colors.

Konstantin Grcic for Galérie Kreo

Konstantin Grcic per Galérie Kréo, Parigi

An object without apparent function, a real sculpture. The Volumes series by Konstantin Grcic for Galérie Kreo consists of blocks of marble cut to form monoliths. A project that marks a change of pace by the German designer, who in the past, even when he has ventured into design art, has always followed a modus operandi typical of design (by adding elements) and not art (like, in this case, the creation of the obtained object cuts a block of material). The series fascinates by the precision of the lines and fascinates for te small but fundamental quote to Achille Castiglioni. The hole in the side part of the piece made of marble, in fact, is a clear reference to the Arco for Flos (Konstantin had already experimented a few years ago in a lamp inspired by Toio, also by Castiglioni for Flos).

John Hogan for The Future Perfect

Gli Water Vases di John Hogan per The Future Perfect

Also surprising is John Hogan‘s Water Glass series for the American gallery The Future Perfect. Vases that appear as solid glass blocks that reflect colors and lights differently depending on the point of observation. Anyone who knows the technique of glass blowing knows that achieving such an effect without any imperfection is practically impossible. In fact, the designer obtained it by blowing the vase like a perforated block on top closed by an invisible wire stopper and then filling it with water. The iridescent effect of color is given by the inclusion of mercury in the glass.

Ewe Studio for Nouvel Limited

Magma, Nouvel Limited

It is not a gallery but a new brand. Nouvel Limited is the spin off design of a huge Mexican company that produces glassware. Relying on Ewe Studio, it produced the series of Magma wall lamps, made of blown glass in a mold made by digging lava stone. The effect, thanks to the leds positioned on a bronze support along the support circumference of the shell, is to be in front of lit lava. Beautiful.

Olivier van Herpt for Vivid Rotterdam

Delftware by Olivier van Herpt for Vivid Gallery in Rotterdam

3D printing and Dutch porcelain tradition are mixed in the Delftware series by young designer Olivier van Herpt for the Vivid Gallery in Rotterdam. Vases printed from digital files with rounded shapes that use the classic Delft blue to create abstract decorations.

AI and design

The most interesting project from the point of view of innovation in manufacturing, is Endless Form by the Chinese Zhang Zhoujie Digital Lab, presented in the Design At Large section of Design Miami Basel. The graduate of Central St Martins has in fact developed a software that collects information on how individuals sit. And he uses them to make the computer design sessions perfectly calibrated on the person and his or her physical characteristics and movement in space.

Cover photo, Endless Form di Zhang Zhoujie Digital Lab

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