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Design Miami


by Brook S. Mason
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For its second installation directly in the shadow of the mega-Art Basel Miami Beach, Design Miami, Nov. 30-Dec. 4, 2011, is stepping out of its once boutique-like niche onto a grand platform. The fair is considerably larger, with dealers like the Seoul-based Seomi taking on triple-sized stands. The fair has more diversity and depth, with more important archival material than prior editions.

“Design Miami reflects both the changing taste of collectors and the expanding marketplace,” said Miami developer Craig Robins, founder of what is now a 23-dealer show. To pique the interest of architecture buffs, Robins brought on London architect David Adjaye to design an outdoor pavilion. The laser-cut gazebo, which is crafted of 2 x 4s, is both millennial and homespun.

New exhibitors include Pierre Marie Giraud from Brussels, Mark McDonald from Hudson, Didier Ltd. from London and Modernity from Stockholm. Among returning dealers are Tribeca's Hostler Burrows (the former Antik), Magen H of New York, Galerie Downtown of Paris, Galerie Vivid from Rotterdam and Dansk Mobelkunst of Copenhagen.

Early proof of Robins’ winning ways are a bevy of sales with Todd Merrill, Hostler Burrows, Patrick Seguin, Mark McDonald and Pierre Marie Giraud within the first hour of the VIP opening yesterday afternoon.

Pounced on by a Mexican collector was a 1956 bent steel Shed by Jean Prouvé at Galerie Downtown for a price upwards of $300,000. It’s really the perfect canopy for a pool area. Nearby, at Seomi, Bae Se Hwa’s steamed walnut bench went for $48,000 to a British client.

As the fair has matured, offerings have moved on considerably from merely basic textbook names such as Charles and Ray Eames and Finn Juhl, demonstrating the growing sophistication of the client base. On hand at Hostler Burrows are new names like Richard Filipowski (1928-2008), whose bronze sculptures mark him as a disciple of the Harry Bertoia esthetic; Axel Einar Hjorth (1888-1959), with a surprisingly modern 1930 center table in chrome and glass; and Arno Malinowski (1899-1976), who worked in blanc de chine porcelain for Royal Copenhagen.

At the same time, some dealers are featuring more important material by key designers. A case in point is R20th Century, which has a 1980 piece by Wendell Castle in Australian lacewood for $450,000, and Todd Merrill, who boasts a Harry Bertoia steel Dandelion from 1951 for a hefty $750,000. It was commissioned by the Hilton Hotel family.

Mark McDonald has brought from Hudson, N.Y., a dining room table and eight chairs by California-based designer Arthur Espenet Carpenter. Dating from 1950, the set boasts chairs with lattice-weaved leather seats and is a simpler, purer version of Wharton Esherick fare. The price is $95,000. Even later material is fresh.

With Carpenters Workshop Gallery is a dazzling light installation, the 2009 You Fade to Light by rAndom International, a design collective composed of two Germans and one English designer. Mere body movement lights up hundreds of small chip-like mirrors; it’s tagged at €140,000. The group's work is in the V&A Museum as well as the National Collection of Qatar. Also of note is a Sebastian Brajkovic 2011 Lathe console, which owes a debt to Tony Cragg. Brajkovic works in anodized aluminum.

Jewelry, always a mainstay of traditional fairs, is now more prevalent. In addition to Didier Antiques from London, both Caroline van Hoek from Brussels and Mark McDonald, who represents the Art Smith estate, carry examples of the art of adornment. Ever since the Brooklyn Museum exhibition “From Village to Vogue: The Jewelry of Art Smith,” the work of that Greenwich Village jewelry designer has moved quickly in the marketplace. Now his 1954 Patina, a mobile that doubles as a necklace, commands a $30,000 price, while his 1952 Diminishing Spirals goes for $24,000. Both are brass.

While Pierre Marie Giraud is touting top ceramics and glass, other dealers like Modernity, Hostler Burrows, Mark McDonald and Venice Projects also carry those specialties. But Giraud has the most compelling work, in the new smaller sculptures by Ron Nagle, 70, the California clay artist who is also a rock musician. His Circle Excellent (2011) is a shard-like sheath of clay in a surreal pink pierced by a blue shark like fin. The price is $23,400.

Close by are Sterling Ruby ashtrays and Kimura Yoshiro crackle-glazed porcelain. “For me, my collectors are primarily from Belgium and France and then London and the U.S.,” said Giraud. “But participating in this fair will change that mix for me dramatically,” he said.

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