by Zohra KhanSep 08, 2022
Design Miami/ Basel 2023 held its 17th edition from June 13 through June 18 with booths from 26 galleries in collectible design, scaled down from last year’s 34 exhibitors. It has been a year of change for the Art Basel group of fairs. The new chief executive Noah Horowitz recently replaced March Spiegler, who oversaw the growth of the fair in the last 15 years. Held alongside Art Basel Unlimited, Design Miami/ Basel 2023 edition also showed signs of change in focus, mainly in the traditional French direction, possibly in preparation for the design fair's anticipated Paris edition, after it was cancelled due to security reasons last year.
This year’s audience saw more tradition, a return to classics and fewer emerging galleries and designers. The curio section, reserved for new and upcoming names in the field, was not held at the Basel fair this year. The reason behind the change seems to be a combination of the design event's intention to return to its origins with an intimate and focused edition and possibly emerging design galleries’ realisation that Basel is a whole different ball game compared to the fair’s Miami edition.
The three themes in focus were combining leading historic designs, innovation in design history and the role of crafts in the collectible design world. The Basel fair has always been particular to tradition and historic design, and this year, they had the world’s mega galleries for historic design, which set the standard for historic collectible design. And with Friedman Benda’s contemporary design masterpieces, it was like walking through a design museum rather than a fair. Here are some highlights to discover.
Galerie Gastou: The Cage-Bed (1974) by Max Ernst
Paris-based Galerie Gastou put the most untapped room of the house on centre stage—the bedroom. Their booth featured the Cage-Bed by the German Dadaist and Surrealist Max Ernst, made two years before his death in 1976. Already in the permanent collection of many prominent museums, this art piece comes with a bed frame in the form of a cage, a bedspread, and a screen, combining walnut, alder wood, brass, mirror, offset lithograph collage and mink fur. The dancing spirits on the bedspread, the surrealist figure on the screen and the disc on the headrest—as the very Max Ernst version of a dreamcatcher—manifest Ernst’s attempt to transform one’s sleeping chambers into a form of Gesamtkunstwerk.
Friedman Benda: Bone Chair (2006) by Joris Laarman
Friedman Benda (New York) presented a survey of the evolution of contemporary design over eight decades through twelve visionary designers who have been in the gallery’s roster, including Ron Arad, Daniel Arsham, Estudio Campana, Wendell Castle, Misha Kahn, KAWS, Joris Laarman, Gaetano Pesce, Samuel Ross, Ettore Sottsass, and Faye Toogood. Titled Iconoclasts and Icons, the museum-quality show “seeks to represent the chaos of contemporary design,” said gallery owner Marc Benda, “distilling the explosive creative forces unleashed by the unending possibilities in our field.”
One of the highlights in the booth was the Bone Chair by Joris Laarman. The prototype is one of the first furniture designs to be made using artificial intelligence and already took its place among design classics in museum collections. The Dutch designer inserted an algorithm about bone growth into a computer that digitally printed a ceramic mould for a chair, which was then brought to life in cast aluminium. The trailblazer design stands as a breakthrough generated by a technology that was so new in 2006, namely the marriage of biological algorithms and smart software.
Foreign Agent: Bolibana (2022) by Hamed Ouattara
With a focus on emerging and mid-career contemporary designers from Africa and the diaspora, the Lausanne-based gallery Foreign Agent has a program that explores marginalised identities and new critical perspectives on history. Their Design Miami/ Basel 2023 booth showcased a series called Bolibana by Hamed Ouattara. A self-taught artist and designer based in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouattara salvaged colourful oil barrels that were discarded on the side of the road and upcycled them into one-of-a-kind furniture designs accentuated with metal spikes. A perfect example of Arte Povera, his designs kept the colours and patina of the barrels as a proud manifestation of the designer’s reaction to his immediate environment in Burkina Faso, where oil barrels in popping primary colours are discarded after use. “Through recycling, I am able to offer a truly local, innovative response to the waste produced from scarce resources in our region,” he explains.