The tent itself appeared to be the same size, though this year a stage and rows of chairs, as well as a performance space (where rockers OK GO performed with an utterly silly set of furry, laser-shooting instruments by the fashionistas at Fendi) took up some of the floor space. Last year the stage was in a building across the street, though when I popped my head in there last week it was being used as a gallery displaying the brand of Miami-approved, glossy/porny cheesecake photography that just barely walks the line between fine art and testimonial for adventurous waxing techniques.
I didn’t quite know what to make of Greg Lynn’s installation Crystal Palace for Swarovski. It consisted of several massive sails suspended from the ceiling like some great, frozen jellyfish. As the sails slowly changed colors they were fairly mesmerizing, though I couldn’t quite get past the fact that the whole thing looked like a high-tech sun visor you might find in the windshield of any parked car. His HSBC Private Lounge fared better, a spiky white affair whose vaguely menacing, razorlike wall reminded those outside it who the real VIPs are. I was told by a particularly vigilant doorkeeper that, once I was through looking at Arik Levy’s installation inside, that I would need "to be removed." A press pass ain’t what it used to be.
Despite a smaller number of exhibitors, I did see a handful of objects that I really liked. So in the interest of giving credit where it is certainly due, here’s a curated look at my four favorites of this year’s Design Miami show.A Passion for Tassenkast
The object that first caught my eye came from the 29 year-old Dutch designer Lotty Lindeman. Her two groups of artfully made luggage called Tassenkast ("tassen" literally means "cabinet") were hung on two of the walls of the Heusden, Netherlands gallery Priveekillektie. Made of cherry wood and hand-stitched by Lindeman, these cases struck me as the perfect antidote to all the ballistic nylon that presently keeps us travelers in order. She prototyped the design for Lloyd’s Hotel in Amsterdam, but now offers a set of three for $6,500 and a set of seven for $14,000. I wonder if you can earn any miles if you buy a set.
Though I didn’t realize it until I’d walked the entire showfloor, but Design Miami was a rather chromatically dull affair this year. Shades of brown carried the day as wood trumped slicker stuff like plastic and resin, though there was one major exception to this drab rule: the work of RISD-trained artist Ben Jones. Jones’s first design collection was shown by Johnson Trading Gallery of New York City, and its bright, neon colors were a welcome burst of excitement. Though the objects in his Beehaven series were treated more like art pieces than furniture proper—only the dog-shaped bench was functional—their whimsy was utterly charming. I was told that Beehaven is the name of Jones’ grandfather’s summer home, and that the dog/bench is the protagonist of a massive graphic novel he’s been composing.
I’ll confess it right now. I fell for a prototype. No, it’s not in production, but god willing it will be soon. This charming little lamp, dubbed Sputnik, is from French designer Francois Azambourg and was show by Gallery R’Pure. Azambourg won the Designer Prize at the Paris Furniture Fair this year, and this luminous little guy, no more than 18" high shows why. I also fell for the desk from his Villa Rose Collection, but the 400 LED lights inside this airship, alongside its skeletal frame, had it rising in my esteem. So Vitra, Capellini, hell, Target, wake up and make this damned lamp, already.
The final entry into my list of favorite is British designer Peter Marigold’s 2009 Palindrome series. Comprised of a table, bed, bench, nightstand, and (sheesh!) and gun cabinet, New York gallery Moss’s collection of Marigold’s work had me wandering past more than once. Half of each object is made of humble plywood, and the other half is a cast of the first, rendered in white gypsum. Nailed together, they form mirror images of each other, and thus have been dubbed the Palindrome series. A rebuke to slickness, the Palindrome family is rough hewn work, a fact celebrated by it’s double-form. Each object has an appropriately palindromic name as well, such as "Kayak, Civic, Hannah," and, improbably, "Mr Owl Ate My Metal Worm." Call me forward-thinking or backward-looking, I was a fan.
To see more images from Design Miami, please visit our slideshow.
Aaron writes the men's style column "The Pocket Square" for the San Francisco Chronicle and has written for the New York Times, the Times Magazine, Newsweek, National Geographic and others.