by Zohra KhanSep 08, 2022
What do art and design fairs hope to achieve? The past decade has seen an increase in festivals, fairs and biennales across the world. This has also led to a concurrent conversation that questions the validity and importance of these large-scale events. While the conversation is still ongoing, it has encouraged the events to reinterpret their formats. The inaugural Mexico Design Fair (MDF) is one such event. Challenging the scale typically associated with design events, MDF was conceptualised as an intimate event for a select group of design collectors to experience a carefully curated selection of design objects that epitomise contemporary Mexican design.
The central exhibition was meticulously curated to present contemporary design objects and collections before they become publicly accessible. These objects became the central narrative through which one can experience the fair. This was further enhanced by the location of the fair itself. Hosted at Casa Naila, designed by Alfonso Quiñones, in Oaxaca, Mexico, the location had the additional benefit of being surrounded by a 20,000 square feet private beach. This location itself set the fair apart. As opposed to seeing these objects of design in stalls, visitors got to experience them in a residential context. Casa Naila is made up of four fragmented volumes attached to the corners of a rectilinear plan. With two open central thoroughfares that separate the spaces, the structure has a dynamic transition between the indoor and external spaces.
The exhibition design used this spatial quality to frame the object driven narratives within the context of a home as opposed to a stall. While the main exhibition, which consisted of 13 carefully selected Mexican designers and studios, were contained within Casa Naila, two larger installations occupied the beachfront. In the main exhibition, visitors experienced design by studios such as the Breuer Studio, which is known for their experimental approach to spatial design, and Casa Gutiérrez Nájera, a design gallery based in Querétaro. Some of the other designs included Colectivo 1050º, a potters cooperative representing more than 50 artisans from seven regions in Oaxaca, who hope to highlight the versatility and history of the different styles and methods of working with clay. Sombra, an architectural lighting design brand based in Mexico City, combined the poetics and the practicality of light and shadow.
On the beach, Pablo Kobayashi’s Wind installation was integrated into the festival to help visitors understand how an installation can interact in the geographical context of its location. The form of the installation was inspired by Torricelli’s trumpet profile. Playing with the trumpet’s original spatial paradox, to create a finite volume with an infinite area, the installation plays with the idea of the double. Using the geometry of a catenary curve the piece is transformed based on the climatic conditions. Using multiple degrees of transparency, and engaging Casa Naila’s curvilinear roof, the installation simulated the movements of the wave.
In line with the fair’s prerogative to approach architecture and design from a different perspective, Mexico Design Fair hosted Luz Coordinada by Proyector. An ephemeral installation, the title of the project translates to coordinated light and is a homage to the pyrotechnic tradition of Mexico. The piece is based on four principles: time, control, manufacture, and registration. The focus of the installation was not on the physical completion of the structure but rather on the activity generated during its controlled burning. Here the design process continued after the physical structure has been created. Designed by Tania Tovar Torres and Juan Carlos Espinosa Cuock from Proyector, the project was developed in a collaborative process between Proyector and the fireworks workshop of the Martínez family, from Salamanca, Guanajuato.
One of the highlights of the event was the announcement on the Designer of the Year. In a unanimous decision made by the jury, the Designer of the Year was awarded to Mexican designer, Liliana Ovalle. The jury consisted of Lourdes Baez, Hector Rivero Borrell, Eduardo Cadaval and Grisell Villasana, who reviewed over 40 profiles before making their decision. According to Villasana, some of the aspects that attributed to Ovalle’s commendation were, "Her courage to develop a career in Mexico and abroad simultaneously; her interaction, as a design provider, with different international brands and firms; the collaborative approach she’s had with artisans in her work; as well as her academic and teaching trajectory." Exploring an alternate format for collectors to experience fairs, the MDF is slated to be an annual event with plans for the next iteration already underway.
The MDF Designer of the Year award ceremony was held on May 22 at Casa Naila, during MDF Mexico Design Fair’s first edition which took place from May 21-23, 2021, in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.