Design Miami/Basel 2019: five art-design works that look to the planet’s future

With the theme “Elements: Hearth”, the new curator Aric Chen stimulates international art-design galleries to select works that explore materials and energy resources, production processes and the implicit emotional value of things.

Design Miami/ Basel

Forty-three international galleries are present in the fourteenth edition of Design Miami/Basel. Among the selection of contemporary works, rare masterpieces of mid-20th-century modern antiques and solo shows by historic and current designers, the new curatorial director Aric Chen has invited galleries to interpret the theme: “Elements/Hearth”.

“It’s all too clear that the role of design isn’t just to explore materials and ways of making, living, consuming and producing, but it’s also to understand the impact on the Planet, which is really urgent,” explains Chen. “Design and designers help to create the future. And this year we want to highlight the visions of design, while human activity keeps changing the very nature of the Earth”. In fact, the group exhibition “Design at Large” curated by Chen, which selects and showcases the work of nine galleries, attempts to question the future of materials, of resources and of production in the age of the Anthropocene.

Studio Mameluca (Mercado Moderno)

Understanding the impact on our planet also means knowing how to consider what other living species can teach us. Nests are perfect structural systems and habitats. The large cocoons of Manimal, by the Brazilian studio Mameluca, were in fact created by observing the way in which birds use the raw materials of nature and assemble them into self-sustaining structures and how these animals interact with the world.

They conducted a study on the nests of some birds in Brazil – João de Barro, João Graveto and Tecelões, the weaver birds – and learned about construction techniques and materials: clay, twigs and leaves, but also the way with which the elements return to nature without any impact. Research was then shifted to other waste materials: human (salvaged wood, cane fibre, cardboard pulp, used fishing nets) while looking for a sustainable form of upcycling that employs techniques learned from birds.

Floris Wubben (The Future Perfect)

Floris Wubben has grown up and thinks big. From the first pressed epoxy vases made in Amsterdam 10 years ago, he has created a lab that can make large furniture, like totems and tables, always using its ceramic impasto extrusion technique. The aesthetics of the collection is inspired by the robust architecture of war bunkers.

Because, as a child, Wubben spent lots of time with old relics found among the dunes and forests outside Zeeland. A solid and geometric defence architecture that can be found in the totems, in the enamelled ceramic tables and in the new large vases. The ceramic material prevails, but we also find wood in the Bunker Cabinet and glass in the mirror, thus suggesting future study on the juxtaposition of materials.

Design Miami/ Basel
Floris Wubben, Forced Vase model – The Future Perfect

Adam Nathaniel Furman (Camp Gallery)

The Royal Family collection presents three bizarre furnishings with uncommon shapes: two large wardrobes, Benevolente and Solidale, and a chair, Gioioso, made by hand in collaboration with Abet Laminati. The royal family in Furman’s mind is the metaphor for middle-class domestic nightmares, slave to cultural models, with two parents and an insanely spoiled child.

An infant who is also an infanta, but who is not free to be what he really is. Furman rejects codes and facile good taste and proposes a hymn to freedom from a “queer culture” perspective. The furniture hides tributes to the Italian Renaissance, like the Tondo Doni by Michelangelo, evoked in the infant’s circle, and to Italian Radical design.

Lindsey Adelman

Paradise City is a collection on the expressivity of blown glass and light. Adelman included the light source directly onto the surface by taking advantage of a low-voltage and LED system as well as the ability of glass to carry light along its thickness. The technology used here is practically invisible, thus allowing the pieces to shine as if they possessed a light of their own.

Adelman explains that inspiration is a “struggle of influences” on the theme of the moment and of transience: W. Somerset Maugham (“We’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it”) with Axl Rose (“Nothin’ lasts forever / In the cold November rain”). And she tells us that “glass represents the incessant flow of time, while the structure is the civilisation grappling with it”.

Design Miami/ Basel
Klarenbeek & Dros Studio, Crystal, 3D printing project for Swarovski – Reorient-Arctic Collection. Photo © Mark Cocksedge

Studio Klarenbeek & Dros (Swarovski Designer of the Future)

In its fifth consecutive year at Design Miami/Basel, Swarovski chooses to theme its selection of designers to promote the prototypes that effect production the most. Three new categories: architectural surfaces; building surfaces and materials; home décor and lighting.

Among the three chosen: the Studio Klarenbeek & Dros, specialised in 3D printing, which develops a series of objects in printed crystal, inspired by the dwindling Arctic ice caps between 1984 and 2012 due to global warming. The objects are made with crystal in the form of filaments, to then be printed based on a morphing established by a computer. It is the first time that the material is used with this technique and Swarovski’s innovation division foresees many applications for the market, thus giving new life to manufacturing by-products.

Immagine di apertura: Camp Design Gallery presents Three Characters in the Second Act: The Royal Family by Adam Nathaniel Furnam. Courtesy of James Harris. Design Miami/ Basel 2019

Design Miami/ Basel
Aric Chen
Opening dates:
11-16 June 2019

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