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Artnet Design

by Brook S. Mason
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Gearing up to rank as the most important design fair globally, the 12th edition of Design Miami/Basel debuts June 14-18, 2011, just steps away from the Swiss contemporary art fair titan Art 42 Basel. A total of 43 dealers, three more than last year, are on the roster. Twelve participants hail from Paris while seven are from the U.S. Also represented are London, Berlin, Brussels, Milan, Cologne, Zurich, Geneva, Rotterdam, Heusden, the Netherlands, Stockholm and Seoul.

Dealers’ expectations are already high, since DMB 2010 featured brisk sales to such megacollectors as Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. But now, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanking below 12,000 on Friday, uncertainty may mar confidence in the art and design market.

The newest twist on design offerings -- part installation, part happening -- can be found with Galerie Patrick Sequin from Paris, who now also shows its wares on the second floor of the Paris Gagosian Gallery space. Every day of the fair in Basel, Sequin’s assistants will set up a Modernist icon by the father of pre-fab housing, Jean Prouvé: his 1944 “demountable bungalow,” made from wood and metal and specifically designed for the war victims whose homes were devastated by WWII bombing in Lorraine. “Each day the absolute modernity of this project will be unveiled anew,” says Sequin of the structure which is priced at €600,000. The timing is right: lately, collectors have snapped up such prefabs, which are in limited supply, to use them as pool houses and garden structures. 

Contemporary art collectors have been slow to venture into ceramics -- except for those created by Ken Price -- but Brussels dealer Pierre Marie Giraud will feature works by a range of artists working in clay and glass that are certain to seduce. Especially noteworthy is new work both fired and painted by the San Francisco-based Ron Nagle, bound to sell out in nanoseconds. Nagle creates small coffee-table landscapes that are both sexually compelling and repulsive at the same time, some with lunar textures and all with riveting palettes. Also appealing are glass works by Japanese-Italian artist Ritsue Mishima, inspired by the lagoons of Venice, where lives and works.  

Scandinavian design is more prevalent than ever with a record six dealers: Hostler Burrows and R20th Century, both of Tribeca, Modernity of Stockholm, Eric Philippe of Paris, Jackson’s of Stockholm and Berlin and Dansk Mobelkunst of Zurich and Paris. “Today, with more clients than ever seeking this material globally, the marketplace is shifting and the competition for rarities is fierce,” says Eric Philippe. Philippe is slated to have Finnish superstar Alvar Aalto’s Pendant Lamp on hand, which was designed specifically for the Maison Louis Carré, his only remaining architectural project in France. The work is priced at €30,000.

Artist-jewelry gallery Ornamentum, hailing from Hudson, New York, is taking part for the first time in DMB with dealer Stefan Friedemann, normally a staple of the SOFA fairs and Design Miami. He brings A-list clientele of such contemporary art caliber as Sean Kelly, and 30 percent of his collectors are Europeans. 

Some of the jewelry featured is meant to expand the public conception of that medium’s potential. A prime example of going beyond the expected is German jeweler Karl Fritsch’s Seven Deadly Sins (2007). The work’s seven rings depict greed, lust, envy, gluttony (a hamburger!), wrath, sloth and pride; they are made of silver, gold, glass, pearls and other semi-precious stones and are sold together as a single work for $80,000. John Iverson’s Mixed Up bracelet, made from various types of gold and visually simulating the appearance of crackled earth, is $52,000.

Surprisingly, Friedemann doesn’t envision the stock market’s dive as problematic in the least. “We’ve been having a solid year, we expect a turn-out of great artists and designers at Basel, and we expect to do well,” he says.

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