Exploring Connections Between Humans and Nature: Inside Design Miami 2023
Design Miami/ has returned for its 19th edition, with over 40 gallery and Curio presentations and over 20 brand collaborations responding to the theme Where We Stand.
The theme was chosen to spotlight the role of design in reflecting and responding to the world, whether that be joyful personal expression or socially conscious responses to contemporary issues. It looks to unearth how each object has its own narrative relating to its material, process and form and how they represent connectivity between people and the planet.
Design Miami/ 2023’s curatorial director Anna Carnick explains how the theme invites visitors to consider how design might help us navigate “complex and far too often divided moments” by allowing them to “access one another’s humanity”. She notes how the chosen objects from around the globe are inspired by narratives of place, community, and heritage and hopes that this year’s fair will “spark thoughtful conversations about the ties that bind us and how they might inform our paths forward”.
The larger spaces in the fair are afforded to galleries while smaller booths are inhabited by Curio’s, which are described as more immersive installations – a kind of “cabinet of curiosities”. Design Miami/ is also showcasing six special projects and 19 partner projects.
Highlights from the galleries
Carpenters Workshop Gallery’s exhibition looks to highlight the global impact of Dutch design, primarily through the lens of visual artists Maarten Baas and Nacho Carbonell. The pieces in the booth are examples of how Dutch design blurs the lines that separate creative disciplines, fusing conceptuality and practicality.
Without doubt, the showstopper piece is Carbonell’s One-Seater Concrete tree – his second largest piece to date – which is part of the Light Mesh collection. Extensive research went into the source materials and shapes, the final result being one big armchair with one large metal branch protruding from it, topped with a metal mesh cork that acts as the crown of the tree.
Carbonell sought to convey how trees grow in a multitude of forms by mirroring the unique growing form of a real living tree. Materials used include metal mesh, cork, steel, concrete, and light fittings.
Southern Guild – established in 2008 by Trevyn and Julian McGowan – is the only South African gallery at this year’s fair. Its focus is on Africa’s rich tradition of utilitarian and ritualistic art as well as the preservation of culture, spirituality, ancestral knowledge, and ecology.
Highlights from its Design Miami/ 2023 presentation include a pair of sculptural seating pods by Porky Hefer, made especially for the fair, that look to signal a turn towards minimalist form. The seats – named John and Yoko – are clad in hand-stitched leather and were designed to represent a lion and a dove. With their wool-lined interiors, these works pay homage to the bed-ins of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Whimsy and fantasy are at the heart of London’s Gallery Fumi booth. Pieces include sculptures cast in bronze by New York and Athens-based furniture design studio Voukenas Petrides, and a pair of surprisingly sturdy and functional cardboard chairs by British designer Max Lamb.
A favourite in this space were ceramic artists Jeremy Anderson’s illuminated sculptures, made with layers of wooden shingles that Berlin-based designer Lukas Wegwerth pigmented by hand in pastel hues.
Looking to the natural world for inspiration – as it has done since its inception in 1992 – New Jersey-based lighting and design studio Aqua Creation developed Bodies of Water, in response to the theme of Where We Stand. Bodies of water seeks to draw attention to overfishing, pollution, resource extraction, and deforestation, all of which have led to disastrous effects on the global freshwater and saltwater ecosystem.
One of the most striking pieces from this collection is The Lake Victoria Wall Light, which are clad in the studio’s signature Coal silk colour. Its sleek, black metal finish means the lamp can be displayed purely as wall art or illuminated with natural yellow light.
The light takes its name from Lake Victoria, one of the seven African Great Lakes that span East, South and Central Africa.
This year, Rademakers Gallery’s curio booth is hosting duo Rive Roshan’s solo exhibition, Space in Between. The sensorial landscape was designed to resemble a sanctuary and encourages relaxation and contemplation.
Ruben de la Rive Box and Golnar Roshan’s choice of material, colour and shapes results in a suite of objects that play with light, movement, reflection, and perception. The Polarity Panels merge contrasting materials and colour gradients together while two glass tables divide the space and reflect their surroundings.
Special and Partner Projects
Returning partner Maison Perrier-Jouët has collaborated with Mexican artist and designer Fernando Laposse on an installation that demonstrates the key role played by the flower – in particular, the process of pollination – and its relationships within the ecosystem.
The Pollination Dance installation aims to draw attention to the accelerating loss of biodiversity, as well as Maison Perrier-Jouët’s efforts in adapting its practices to help nature renew itself in the past decade.
One of the six special projects is a collaboration between London-based luxury brand Aman Interiors – making its debut at Design Miami/ – and Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. Migumi is a new furniture collection inspired by “the fusion of sunlight and wood that Kuma witnessed in Miami”, according to the gallery.
Designed by craftsmen in Higashikawa with elegance and minimalism in mind, the handmade collection serves to remind people of our deep connections to our environments.