What is the key takeaway from one week of hopping between Art Basel and Design Miami? The markets for art and collectible-design continue to intersect. And it is design, rather than art that is shifting the goalposts. The new kid on the block are one-off works that deliberately bend the rules, shatter preconceived styles and radically redefine the role of both design and designer.
No longer concerned about mass-production and conventional functionality, these style-fluid pieces take inspiration from design, art and architecture. Designers deftly dissect the debris of postindustrial wastelands and artfully evoke a new aesthetics that is variously termed “ugly”, “trash”, ‘kitsch’ or “anti-beauty”. While the new school defy crude attempts at categorisation what unites their works is a focus on process-driven, personal narrative, expressed in gestural, improvisational and intuitional material treatment. You always get rawness: production techniques, flaws or environmental impacts are deliberately exposed.
There is an ironic elephant in the room wondering about the clash between aesthetic aspiration and economic reality: cutting-edge collectible-design is essentially about retrieving the detritus of industrial ruins and broken capitalist dreams but comes with a price tag only the one percent of the one percent (ie Art Basel collector types looking for decor) can afford. But we live in brutal times and this is the avantgarde aesthetics it produces.
Let’s take at three works that caught my eyes at Design Miami:
DECADENCE / ORTAMIKLOS (FUNCTIONAL GALLERY)
For their solo presentation at Functional Art gallery’s debut-booth at Design Miami, Franco-danish duo OrtaMiklos took inspiration from the painting “The Romans in their Decadence” by Thomas Couture. Yes, it looks as camp as it sounds. While the ultra flamboyant (and surprisingly comfy) daybed set the shutters of the smartphones aflutter, I was personally drawn to The White Ladies, a pair of reading-lamps. Electric wire found in scrap yard weaves around a body made of women’s stockings filled with pigmented cement. Kinky. The duo refer to their practice as “Ignorant Design”. Leo Orta, France 1993, and Victor Miklos, Denmark 1992) met at Design Academy Eindhoven, where they founded OrtaMiklos in 2015. Recent group shows include Salone del Mobile Milan and Dutch Design Week Eindhoven.
BLEACHED II / EREZ NAVI PANA (DESIGN AT LARGE / FRIEDMAN BENDA)
In these furniture pieces Israeli designer Erez Nevi Pana investigates the impact of mineral extraction at the Dead Sea. He submerged aluminium and wooden structures encased in luffa into a saline-rich industrial evaporation pond, leaving the crystallised salt to form coral structures. The otherworldly beautiful mineral-encrusted pieces offer a reflection on environmental exploitation and industrial waste. Erez Nevi Pana is a key figure of vegan design and aims to make it as popular as vegan food. He pushes the potential of vegan materials in every aspect of design, from work processes to final product.
GANDHARA STUDIES / STUDIO MUMBAI (MANIERA GALLERY)
The Indian company Studio Mumbai makes architectural furniture pieces without architects. Their material vocabulary ranges from bamboo, stone, brick and lime to metal and paper. Referencing traditional craftsmanship, they explore the direct interaction of material and human. The circular stone armchair is carved out of a large rock found in their immediate surroundings using simple tools and gestures of the hand. At Maniera’s Design Miami presentation it was placed in a sleek living room setting. The encounter of contemporary urban glamour and timeless mythical artefact worked surprisingly well.