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Best of Design in Miami

This year’s globally respected design fair offered a wealth of inspiration and innovation, with a discernable emphasis on metallics, circular forms and cunning cabinetry. Plus: a silky lighting system that delivers a bath of color. 

MOST ILLUMINATING //

LIGHT VOLUMES
Victor Hunt, Brussels

With Light Volumes, Viennese artists Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler didn’t just create a product; they conjured an atmosphere. Followers of their work—found in the permanent collection at the Art Institute of Chicago and in museums from London to Beijing—are well aware of the duo’s versatile, kinetic innovations. At Design Miami/, their lighting system bathed fairgoers in soft light from hanging fixtures made of silk, patinated brass, aluminum, LEDs, light diffusers and electronic components. But it’s those three semitransparent loops of silk that drew people in: They ripple and gently wave. They can function as the subtlest of room dividers. Rarely have fabric and light come together in such a sensuous and seamless marriage. Price upon request  –Drew Limsky

MOST FLUID FORM //

LOUNGE CHAIR
Volume Gallery, Chicago

Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton founded their eponymous architecture firm in Chicago in 1978, and by the mid-’80s, they had gained fame for provocatively modern furniture design created for the private residences of stylish local socialites. The Lounge Chair, envisioned—but never produced—for fashion maven Joan Weinstein in 1986, displays gradations of coolness. The polished stainless steel base, curved and bladelike, is only subtly warmed by taupe metallic leather upholstery worked into channels. Suggesting a Space Age sensuality, the futuristic lounger seems ready to hover. The piece suggests movement yet is clinical—a fitting place to park oneself inside a spaceship. Never realized in its time, in 2017 the Lounge Chair appeared at Volume Gallery as part of a limited-edition reissue of three iconic Krueck + Sexton chair designs. Price upon request –Becca Hensley

MOST SUPPLE SHAPE //

BOMBOCA SOFA
Louis Vuitton, Miami

Fans of the venerable Louis Vuitton brand will recall its 2016 contribution to Design Miami/, when various global designers, inspired by LV’s travel and luggage legacy, created limited-edition pieces for the Objets Nomades collection. In 2017, Objets Nomades returned with a range of works, the most arresting of which was the Bomboca sofa by Fernando and Humberto Campana. Inspired by the sea and clouds, the modular sofa is composed of freeform cushions in shades of blue and turquoise that fit together like soft puzzle pieces. The Campanas covered the sofa in same high-quality leather used for LV bags, while the cushions are offered in textured fabrics. For LV’s fervent fans who can’t let go of the feel of the brand’s luggage, now they can wrap themselves in supple luxury. Price upon request –DL

 

MOST DELICIOUSLY DECORATIVE //

CABINET ENGRENAGE
Demisch Danant, New York

Not only does 86-year-old Maria Pergay, who began her career in 1956, refuse to slow down, but the beloved French designer is enjoying greater cultural currency than ever before. With her affinity for metallics on full display, Pergay has been especially productive of late, with more than 70 new works completed in the last decade. Cabinet Engrenage is a standout among them and represents Pergay’s interest in the tension between decoration and function. The sturdy cabinet is fronted by an assertive and whimsical engrenage (gear) face crafted from brushed stainless steel; the gears themselves, which look moveable but are just for show, were cut from Ti-black, Ti-blue and mirrored stainless steel. The piece achieves a careful balance between warm and cool: The structure and interior drawers were built from lemon wood, while the base is brushed and polished brass. Price upon request –DL

 

MOST SUBTLY INTERACTIVE //

LARGE WILLOW
Moderne Gallery, Philadelphia

Just about anyone who passed this rare Harry Bertoia sculpture gave in to the temptation to run their fingers through its ombre strands fashioned from hundreds of stainless steel wires that fall from a crown in metallic waves. Most famous for his latticelike “diamond” chairs, Bertoia achieved sculptural work that is generally divided into two categories: pieces that tease warmth out of metal by evoking natural forms, or those that unleash musical tones when manipulated. In this series, he masterfully blends both, offering an eye-in-the-beholder willow whose weeping leaves sway and whisper at the gentlest breeze or touch. After attending Cranbrook Academy, the Italian-born designer fell in with a crowd of midcentury craftsmen, including furniture maker Wharton Esherick and master woodworker George Nakashima, who spent time being geniuses together in the Philadelphia suburbs and are championed by Moderne Gallery. $135,000 –JoAnn Greco

 

MOST MYSTERIOUS //

HAUNTED
Southern Guild, Cape Town

When South African carpet maker Paco Pakdoust teamed up with leading post-pop artist Conrad Botes, the result was both tactile and graphic. Pakdoust works with many of South Africa’s most esteemed painters, employing their imagery to reinterpret traditional weaves of wool and silk. But with Botes, the weaver tackles surprisingly dark and suggestive subject matter. In the round Haunted series, handmade Tibetan Highland wool rugs are emblazoned with Botes’ vibrant yet poignant cartoon style. An enigmatic woman with feathery bangs looks over her shoulder and out at us, expectant, perhaps anxious. She is framed, menacingly, by a pair of elongated animal forms that seem to spring from her nightmares. Price upon request –Scott Drevnig

 

BEST CONTRAST //

CITYSCAPE SETTEE
Todd Merrill, New York

Even with late midcentury style amply represented at Design Miami/, one of the fair’s outstanding vintage pieces was certainly the 1970 settee fashioned by Paul Evans Studio for Directional as part of the Cityscape series. A functional conversation piece, this so-called box sofa is clad in Evans’ signature patchwork chrome in geometric panels of varying sizes. Meanwhile, with its deep tufted cushioning, the settee delivers a study in hard and soft. The newly upholstered bottle-green silk velvet (by Dedar) proves especially striking against the reflective metal for a plush and shiny sit-down. $30,000 –DL

 

MOST CINEMATIC //

PARABOLA ORO ROSA
Hostler Burrows, New York

It’s hard not to think of the glamour of an Italian movie set when Parabola Oro Rosa is lighting up your room. Though the name and the look of the standup lamp suggest rose gold, the signed and numbered piece (one of an edition of 18) is actually copper with an adjustable silver-plated brass base. The lamp is the latest offering from Atelier Biagetti, the Milan-based practice of Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari, a multidisciplinary studio that operates in the fields of art, design and architecture to create objects, interiors and site-specific installations for galleries and private collectors across the world. Price upon request –DL

 

BEST REFLECTIVE SURFACE //

HELEN MIRROR
R & Company, New York

With a sculptor father and opera singer mother, it was only natural that Texas-born twin brothers Nikolai and Simon Haas would end up pursuing creative careers. After working separately for many years, the two joined forces in Los Angeles in 2010, branded themselves The Haas Brothers and began to produce objets d’art that have taken the design world by storm. This year, they reflected visitors to Design Miami/ in this unique mirror with a custom sculptural cast bronze frame. Evincing the exceptional craftsmanship found in all of their pieces, the mirror was created with rose-tinted glass. Given its freeform shape, this sexy piece can be hung vertically or horizontally and will surely add a touch of swish to any environment. Price upon request –SD

 

MOST RETRO-FUTURISTIC //

ISOLATION SPHERE
Maison Gerard, New York

2017 marked the debut year of Maison Gerard at Design Miami/, and the revered New York gallery brought the future—by way of 1971—with them. In a fair that contained numerous Space Age references, Maurice-Claude Vidili’s Isolation Sphere enchanted visitors with its unabashed 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe. Composed of four lacquered polyester shells fused together to create a zone of silence, the globe refers to both outer limits and inner journeys. Its view of leisure equals privacy and monochromatic containment in a piece that looks ready to defy gravity. With just enough space to accommodate three semisolitude-seekers, the piece features plush seating, ample storage, electrical power and a radio—indeed, the orb seems to have everything you need to launch into orbit. $195,000 –DL

 

MOST BRILLIANTLY DISORDERED //

ALL THE NIGHTMARES CAME TODAY
Cristina Grajales Gallery, New York

Normally, when you combine materials like bamboo and rock climbing cord, you don’t end up with a functional object—unless, of course, that object is forged in the creative minds of the identical twin Starn brothers (Mike and Doug). The resulting chair is a mix of raw beauty, meticulous jumble and planned chaos. The brothers rose to prominence after being included in the 1987 Whitney Biennial, which led to representation by legendary dealer Leo Castelli. Next came a much lauded 2010 takeover of the Metropolitan Museum rooftop with their Big Bambú installation, which propelled these category-defying iconoclasts on an upward trajectory with their architecture, organic sculpture and now furniture. $90,000 –SD

 

MOST TEXTURAL //

CRUSTACEA
Friedman Benda, New York

One of the most attention-grabbing pieces of the week, Christopher Schanck’s bulbously textured, pistachio-hued cabinet, Crustacea, sold on the first day of the fair. A tour de force example of the Detroit artist’s signature Alufoil method, the piece was offered by Friedman Benda, which this March will organize Schanck’s first New York solo show. Schanck likens his technique—which involves handcarved, laminated foam layered over a steel frame, then covered with colored aluminum sheets and sealed in resin—to the geography of time. Just as small mineral deposits, drip by drip, create massive landforms, local artists and community members join the designer in the painstaking application and build-up of materials. As the Motor City makes a bid for creative and entreprenurial resurgence, Schanck and his fantastical creations are at the forefront of a Detroit renaissance. $90,000 –JG

 

MOST OTHERWORDLY //

MAD MARTIAN DINING TABLE
Gallery All, Los Angeles

When Ma Yansong, founder of MAD Architects, based in Los Angeles and Beijing, searched for an influence for his latest collection, he looked to his homeland and the skies—and to classic sci-fi movies like Alien. He asked himself what a Chinese colonization of Mars would look like, and what emerged was a furniture landscape that is gnarled and dripping, featuring an aluminum dining table that invokes an inverted mountain range. Yansong required sophisticated technological techniques to match his febrile imagination: The piece was created through an advanced manufacturing process that melded MAD’s digital modeling capabilities with state-of-the-art robotic fabrication methods. Which is definitely how the Martians do it. Price upon request –DL

 

BEST USE OF GLASS //

BO
The Future Perfect, Los Angeles

Though artifacts date glass blowing to the second millennium, BC, the basic art form has changed little since its inception. Glass blowers today generally still use a blow tube to swell molten glass into a bubble, which the gaffer shapes as desired with a range of tools and torches. But Seattle-based artist John Hogan does much more than that. Implementing traditional blowing techniques only about a quarter of the time, the artist also utilizes other techniques, including hot sculpting and casting, to achieve prismatic sculptures and eye-catching, multitextured objects. An avid photographer, Hogan captures form in nature and urbanity on film (or he draws what he sees), then reinterprets his visions in his laboratory-like glass studio, where kilns can reach 2,000 degrees. Introduced to glass blowing as a teenager at the Toledo Museum of Art, Hogan studied the art in Japan and the Czech Republic. Bo, a one-of-a-kind piece—though emblematic of the artist’s otherworldly creations—was hot-sculpted with cold worked glass. It evokes the wonder of a rainbow, if rainbows were glossy, reflective and composed of shades of yellow, blue and burnt sienna. $6,500 –BH

RICHEST CLADING //

CARAPACE CUPBOARD
Carpenters Workshop, New York

This Maarten Baas unit, complete with a bar and fridge, is sure to dominate any home or lounge—and be a welcome sight to any host or hostess who entertains with abandon. But it is what’s on the outside that is sure to inspire comment, as Baas’ so-called carapace pieces are known for their patchwork of bronze plating. Painstakingly dot-welded piece by piece, these plates form a skin that their creator likens to turtle shells. Baas, a noted Dutch artist and designer, has sold his pieces to Brad Pitt and Kanye West, worked with Louis Vuitton and Dior, and has exhibited in the MoMa, the Rijksmuseum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His Carapace collection debuted in 2016 at Carpenters Workshop Gallery, which was founded in 2006 by Julien Lombrail and Loïc Le Gaillard with a London location. Next came Carpenters Workshop openings in Paris and New York; the U.S. response was so promising that San Francisco welcomed a pop-up in 2017. Price upon request –DL