Andrew Davies reviews the design show that compliments the more well-known Art Basel Art Fair.
Art Basel 2018 was the 49th edition of the Art World’s most important modern and contemporary art fair. But Art Basel is just the focal point of many art related events in and around Basel. The Art Basel Design Miami show (its thirteenth edition) was this year several times larger than it had been in previous years, affording more breadth of exhibitors and categories on show from designer furniture, to jewellery and classic cars. Changes in the layout of the Collector’s Lounge meant that access could be gained, via a bridge, to a new lobby accessing both the Unlimited section and Art Basel Design Miami making both more easily accessible to visitors.
The ethos of the Design Miami/Basel show is to provide the international collector with furnishings of equal importance to their art, by design pioneers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
With haute couture, the creative auteur comes up with an innovative, hopefully classic, design that at first is only for the elite but then filters down ultimately to stores such as H & M. In furniture, ‘cutting-edge’ designs can influence mass market retailers such as IKEA. Indeed, nine mid-twentieth century wooden animal figures by Kay Boyen (including a monkey which is retailed today by IKEA) were available as a group for EUR 11,000. The filter-down process is particularly strong for the strand of industrial design by architects and designers such as Jean Prouve, (1901 -1985). An aluminium covered salvaged door with portholes by Prouve was available for EUR 150,000. The other notable design strand is the naturalistic; designers who reference forms found in nature and / or use natural materials, wood, leather, marble etc. in their work. Otherwise there is always space for novelty in design, but if all else fails using plenty gold is always good in today’s international design vocabulary of the super-rich.
My personal top ten must-see items from the Design Miami/Basel show were as follows;
- The naturalistic. Gallerie Mitterrand, (ruin by a nephew of the late President of France), showed exclusively works by Francois-Xavier Lalanne and his wife Claude Lalanne, (now aged 94 years), who as sculptors were influenced by Max Ernst, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Jean Tinguely. Their surrealist sculptures from the 1970’s onwards heavily feature plant and animal forms are now highly important as a bronze bed applied with monkeys and a crocodile banquet with crocodile leather seat, both at 1.5 million euros, will attest. Even a humble bronze mounted ‘mouton’ cost EUR 950,000.
- Carpenters Workshop showed a dandelion chandelier by Studio Drift of Amsterdam which was an amazing piece of work made up of dandelion ‘clocks’ painstakingly applied onto LED bulbs set within a metal framework yours: for £65,000.
- For its simplicity of design and use of wonderful material, a beautiful refectory table in black walnut c.1957 by George Nakashima was on sale for US $ 180,000.
- Children’s Delight. You could not resist a smile when looking at the carpet-covered and embroidered swinging chair by South African artist Porky Hefer modelled as a whale. The piece had a ‘feel good’ association with Leonardo Di Caprio’s Foundation For Endangered Species, which would receive a significant proportion of the US $100,000 selling price.
- Novelty. Heritage Gallery Prop showed a desk made entirely out of Tsarist guns c. 1921; the parquetry top coming from a palace floor; EUR 120,000.
- Contemporary. The Future Perfect Gallery showed a unique wardrobe by Chris Wolfson covered in colourful anodised aluminium vegetation inspired by the Columbian jungle with a wickerwork interior, perfect for the beach house, if you can spare US $62,000.
- Artistic collaboration ‘Anotherview’ showed two screens convincingly framed as windows and shutters showing a continuous 24-hour view over Portofino. Controlled by an App you could change the time of day at will. From an edition of 5 the image was a constant delight and well worth EUR 47,000.
- The cars. The Stuart Parr Collection showed some vintage Italian motorbikes. The ISO company who made the Isetta Bubble car also made 412 ‘muscle cars’ between 1965-1972. What caught my eye was the blue Grifo by Renzo Rivolta for ISO with bodywork designed by Bertone – in concours condition this rare beast had a price tag of £450,000.
- For jewellery the Siegelson Gallery of New York founded in 1920, now run by Lee Siegelson, showed three different Cartier mystery clocks from the 1920’s costing approximately US $ 1.6 million each; but their star was a 16-carat diamond ring. The stone, mined in Golconda in India, was named the ‘Shah’ and cost US $3 million.
- The Miami beat. Gallery Gufram turned their entire area which featured historical pieces that the company had presented over recent years in a disco / party context, which was very effective marketing and gave an insight into the Miami party scene.
With so much on offer in and around Basel you ideally need three or four days to appreciate all of the various fairs and exhibitions across the city as well as the amazing nightlife!