Aric Chen, the newly appointed curator of Design Miami/Basel, has ambitious plans. Taking a more holistic approach to design in an expanded sense, Chen is surveying topics relating to environmentalism and leading with a curated show that examines intersections between design thinking and an object’s sustainability.
“It’s not just design’s role in exploring materials, and ways of making, living, consuming and producing that have taken on new urgency as our impact on the planet becomes all too clear,” Chen said.
From objects “mined” from e-waste in Studio Formafantasma’s Ore Streams to Shahar Livne’s Metamorphism’s made of plastic-filled geological matter, the nine projects in the group show of Design Miami/Basel offer extra-disciplinary investigations into deign thinking.
Entitled “Design at Large”, Chen’s exhibition doesn’t so much ask how designers are responding to urgent ecological crises, but rather it seems to ask how design thinking is allowing us to rethink our relationship with materials.
Upstairs, in the fair portion of Design Miami/Basel, 45 galleries from 12 countries are exhibiting innovative and unique designs that reflect an emphasis on light and form. In Mathieur Lehanneur’s Inverted Gravity Collection, slabs of colourful marble are placed on top of glass to make it seem as if the rocks were floating.
Sustainability is a theme that runs throughout the fair. In Formafantasma’s Ore Streams Low Chair, developed over the course of three years (2017-2019) and commissioned by NGV Australia and Triennale Milano, the recycling of electronic waste is foregrounded as a way to show how design thinking is reshaping our relationship with objects and the world we inhabit.
In Andrea Branzi’s Tree 8 at Friedman Benda, the distance between the natural world and the artificial world is laid bare. Entering the booth, we encounter several objects made by Branzi revealing the unique relationship objects often have with one another. A cabinet and a bench are both outfitted with trees, versatile configurations that combine to create intriguing new forms.
Elsewhere, Olga Engel’s installation “Remember” presents a magnificently minimalistic take on tactile whimsical forms.
While the overall theme of the fair is focused on forward, future thinking design practices, this year’s Design Miami/Basel is also home to several rare, iconic works from the early and mid-twentieth century, including Gio Ponti’s infamous Triennale Armchair (originally showcased at the IX Triennale in Milan in 1951), alongside a beautiful 1936 “Tired Man” chair by Flemming Lassen.
Above all, the fourteenth edition of Design Miami/Basel looks both forwards and backwards, giving credence to an expanded sense of design that goes beyond beauty and styling, into ways of thinking about design not as unchanging or monolithic, but as something that is permanently in flux.
Design Miami is ongoing until June 16, 2019.