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Artnet Design


by Brook S. Mason
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The Alpha Design Crowd is pouncing on this year’s trailblazing Design/Miami Basel, June 12-17, 2012, opening today along with half a dozen contemporary art fairs in Basel, Switzerland. Despite fiscal blues around the globe, the forecast for this big-ticket event is buoyant, with a total of 35 dealers at the seventh annual edition. That’s more than double the number of participants at the inaugural fair.

New trends in design abound. Begin with artful lighting, as D/MB director Marianne Goebl, reports, “This year, we see a strong increase in contemporary work, especially in experimental, interactive lighting.” Leading the pack is Zesty Myers, head of the Tribeca-based R20th Century, with dynamic installations by New York glass artist Jeff Zimmerman (b. 1968).

At a stunning five feet in diameter, his illuminated sculptures are composed of frosty, dented balls of hand-blown soda glass. It’s practically a personal galaxy. “Zimmerman’s artistry has exploded internationally,” says Myers, who has shown his lighting recently in both Dubai and Seoul and racked up a slew of commissions. Each work is unique, with a five-footer going for $250,000.

Nearby, Galerie Kreo from Paris is showcasing the sleek 1960s lighting designs of Italian designer Gino Sarfatti (1912-84), who founded his company Arteluce after the war and went on to experiment with new materials and technologies like plastic and halogen. In total, the booth presents several dozen lighting examples, all from the private collection of Clémence and Didier Krzentowski, who head up Kreo.

If you’re looking for cutting-edge furniture, London’s Carpenters Workshop Gallery has a blockbuster from the Antwerp-headquartered Studio Job. The firm’s bronze Taj Mahal Table strikes decidedly humorous note. It’s a tabletop model of that famed building India but totally turned upside down and with flashy gilt domes. In an edition of eight, this table is priced at €36,000.

Not to be missed is Dilmos from Milan, a new participant at the fair. At the gallery’s stand is the conceptual work by the Israel-based designer Ron Gilad, the totally quirky Glass Tube Bench.

And one more thing, Design / Miami Basel proves that the art of ceramics is taking on an entire new stance. Todd Merrill from Greenwich Village is staging the work of Japanese porcelain artist Katsuyo Aoki, typically known for ceramic skulls that are as masterful as they are ghoulish. In Basel Merrill is presenting Aoki’s new Labyrinth, a monumental Rococoesque horse sculpture in gleaming bone white porcelain. It’s tagged at $95,000. Aoki’s inaugural work in this series is in the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

Also on Merrill’s stand is Burgeon by Hudson Valley artist Jennifer Trask (b. 1970), a six-foot-wide wall installation composed of 18th- and 19th-century gilt picture frames along with bone and antlers, a work that also approaches the Rococo. The price is $175,000.

Demisch Danant from New York’s Chelsea art district is featuring Maria Pergay, and furnishings by Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand are all but ubiquitous. Paris dealer Patrick Seguin has a winner. It’s Prouvé’s Metropole aluminum house. Designed and built in 1949, the exact same year that Philip Johnson created his iconic Glass House, the French maison in contrast is starkly industrial. But then Prouvé is credited with designing the first prefab, in his case with displaced denizens of war-torn Europe in mind. Also on view is the perfect accompaniment: Prouve's 1939 Refectory table, composed of galvanized steel topped with cement. Only 17 exist.

On hand with Galerie Downtown François Laffanour is also an abundance of pivotal Prouvé including a structure. How do clients utilize such historic housing? “They’re turned into pool houses,” says Laffanour

Last year, a tidy 6,000 visitors strolled the vernissage, including Miamians collectors Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, along with George Lindemann, architect Lee Mindel, fashion designer Jil Sander and model Naomi Campbell. This time around, an even bigger crowd should swell the hall.

BROOK S. MASON is U.S. correspondent for the Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Financial Times and other publications.