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The Ultimate AD guide to Miami Art and Design Week 2021

The Ultimate AD guide to Miami Art and Design Week 2021

Alia Akkam

Following September’s Switzerland editions of Design Miami and Art Basel, the much-loved fairs return to Miami with a full slate of in-person happenings for the first time since 2019. Like previous years, Miami Art and Design Week will include Design Miami (unfolding inside Pride Park 1–5 December) and Art Basel (running December 2–4 at the Miami Beach Convention Center), among a host of other activities.

Programming for the 17th instalment of Design Miami comes courtesy of incoming curatorial director Wava Carpenter and investigates the theme of “Human Kind.” The event promises “an opportunity for us to reflect on how design can play a role in creating a better future,” she tells AD PRO. “After such a tumultuous couple of years, it feels like an appropriate moment to come together and reflect on how we can all play a role in having a positive impact on the world.” Eager to “make space for conversations that will further these ideas,” Carpenter adds, this year’s Design Talks will feature experts and practitioners who will examine the notion of “Human Kind” through the lenses of social justice and nature, as well as discuss design practices that are shaped by cultural heritage.

A number of Design Miami partnerships also spotlight this theme. Lexus, for example, is unveiling the ON/ installation by local architect Germane Barnes and University of Miami students. Inspired by Lexus’s LF-Z Electrified Concept car, it envisions a more sustainable, carbon-neutral future. The installation will display a three-dimensional rendition of the concept car, and will feature interactive elements and even showcase user-generated designs. 

Likewise, AIG is presenting the 2021 Collectors Lounge Designers Commission in collaboration with the Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG), “creating a platform to showcase the incredible work of designers Leyden Lewis of Leyden Lewis Design Studio and Danielle Fennoy of Revamp Interior Design as well as BADG’s mission to build a more equitable and inclusive industry,” as Design Miami CEO Jennifer Roberts puts it.

Welcoming visitors to Design Miami will be Tomorrow Land, a range of sculptures and seating by Brooklyn- and Portland, Oregon–based Studio Proba, bolstered by an interactive, virtual game from Portland design practice Enjoy the Weather. It will pave the way to myriad displays of collectible vintage and contemporary design. 

Those displays will include Studio Craft Movement gems like the Karuizawa chair, George Nakashima’s first-ever furniture design, exhibited by Philadelphia’s Moderne Gallery. The precursor to Nakashima’s Grass-Seated chair, it was made for St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Karuizawa, Japan, in 1935, and melds a Cryptomeria frame with a suspended woven grass thread seat. Friedman Benda gallery from New York will also launch its partnership with British artist, designer, and creative director Samuel Ross with an industrial-tinged booth dedicated solely to furniture from Ross’s Signal, Rupture, and Amorphous Strand series. The Future Perfect, meanwhile, will bring together objects from 15 talents, including Los Angeles mixed-media artist Bari Ziperstein’s glazed ceramic Zig Zag table and Dutch designer Floris Wubben’s sculptural side table fashioned out of glazed stoneware.

Along with these booths are the immersive environments created as part of Design Miami’s Curio initiative. Harry Nuriev of Crosby Studios returns to Miami with The Bedroom, a silver-hued installation starring a ryokan-style mattress, and so does the Beirut nonprofit House of Today with New Nature, a five-piece furniture collection from Lebanese designer Khaled El Mays. Buoyed by the skills of Mexico City craftspeople, the collection integrates leather, wood, raffia, wicker, and ceramics. Among those making their Design Miami debut with Curio is Bea Pernia of local studio Bea Interiors Design, whose organic furniture is crafted from oak, stone, and other natural materials.

Design Miami’s artier side is captured in Clay Pop, an exhibition of ceramic sculptures curated by Alia Williams, managing director of Jeffrey Deitch’s New York gallery, that pushes the boundaries of this medium through works that draw from influences as diverse as Walt Disney and 1970s funk art from northern California. Artists featured in the Charlap Hyman & Herrero–designed exhibit include Woody De Othello, Sterling Ruby, and Amia Yokoyama. Ceramics are also illuminated in South African gallery Southern Guild’s presentation, for which local artists have reinterpreted traditional Nguni pottery. 

Art is, of course, the focus of Art Basel, and this year, 253 galleries from around the world will have a presence. Meridians, devoted to large-scale sculptures and paintings, installations, video projections, and live performances in a dedicated space on the main show floor, is once again curated by Magalí Arriola, director of Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City. This time around, Meridians spans creations by Brazilian artist Maxwell Alexandre, as part of his Pardo é Papel series depicting favela life, from Rio de Janeiro gallery A Gentil Carioca, as well as U.S.–and Ghana-based artist Todd Gray’s Sumptuous Memories of Plundering Kings, a complex 14-part, 30-foot-long piece shown by David Lewis Gallery that meditates on European colonialism, slavery, and the African diaspora.

Curated exhibitions from emerging and established artists are the focus of Art Basel’s Kabinett platform, which ranges from Dusseldorf gallery Sies + Höke’s rare early drawings by Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter to Roberts Projects’ paintings from Ghanaian artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe that consider the relationships between identity, materiality, and race.

There are sure to be other highlights too. At the recently opened Superblue Miami gallery in Allapattah, Dior Maison’s “Dior Medallion Chair” exhibition (on view 30 November–5 December 5) will reveal versions of the Louis XVI–style seat reimagined by such designers as Dimore Studio, India Mahdavi, and Pierre Yovanovitch.

Another luxury icon will be celebrated in the Design District too: In honour of the centennial anniversary of Chanel No. 5, London artist and stage designer Es Devlin collaborated with the fashion house’s resident perfumer, Olivier Polge, on Five Echoes, the transformation of Jungle Plaza into a temporary forest of more than 1,000 plants, shrubs, and trees punctuated by a multi-sensory sculptural labyrinth enlivened by light, colour, and sound.

Louis Vuitton is also getting in on the action: Expanding their Objets Nomades collection of travel-inspired designs, the luxury fashion house will transform its stores in the Design District with work from the Campana Brothers, Raw Edges, Marcel Wanders, and Patricia Urquiola on display.

With buzzy new hangouts like Pharrell Williams’s Goodtime Hotel offering sanctuary from the barrage of installations, Design Miami and Art Basel are sure to conjure an aura of pre-pandemic conviviality. And for those spending time in Miami in the lead-up to the festivities, the international art, music, and culture festival Art With Me will make landfall in Miami from 26–28 November at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, running from noon to 2 a.m. each day. Expect concerts, art installations, wellness programming, and even activities for kids.

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