Since it first opened in 2005 in accordance with its sister show Art Basel, Design Miami has become my favorite design fair, where I visit every first week of December almost religiously. It is Design Miami that showcases the most intriguing directions and materials in design, juxtaposes the vintage and the contemporary and has since become a “must” for discerning collectors. Design Miami showcases designs, which are conceptual, unexpected, of experimental materials, and unique vocabularies. The show is held bi-annually in December in Miami and in June in Basel, Switzerland.
The year 2011 marked the seventh anniversary of Design Miami as a global forum for design, and this time it took place in a temporary structure, erected adjacent to Art Basel. On show were some important mid-century French design, Brazilian and California Modern, Scandinavian mid-century design, Postmodern Italian, French work of the 60s and 70s, Korean craft/design, Artists-designed jewelry and mainly contemporary design by established and by emerging designers. This year is also marked by the appointment of a new director, Marianne Goebl. I have met her to discuss the current state of collectible design, the mission of Design Miami, its new directions, and to chat on design.
Before joining the Fair, Marianne Goebl held a position as Head of International Public Relations and Partner a role in which she was responsible for Vitra’s international public relations strategy, brand collaborations and partnerships. At Vitra, she was responsible for the exhibition concept, execution, and media relations campaign for “VitraHaus,” along with the brand collaborations and communications strategy for “Vitra Campus.” As Director for “Vitra Edition,” Goebl worked closely alongside world-renowned designers including Ron Arad, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, Hella Jongerius, and Jasper Morrison, among others.
I believe that the medium of collectible design is still in its infancy and to a certain extent, it is a field yet to be uncovered and discovered.
When did you first develop a passion for design?
I have been interested in objects and in the way they are made since the time I remember myself. While I started my career in the art world, working in art museums, I can clearly recall that one single event that came to shape my love for design. I was in my early 20s, when I had first visited the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual furniture fair in Milan. This visit had definitely marked a turning point in my life, and had made a great introduction to the world of objects. It was direct and tangible, thus in Milan I came across the relationship between the conceptual and aesthetic characters of design. This led me to my job at Vitra.
Tell me about working with Greg Lynn, whose remarkable Ravioli Chair Vitra has produced since 2005.
Greg’s approach of computer-based design and manufacturing methods are almost utopian. The Ravioli Chair was designed in computer simulation that came to expand the flat square surface into three-dimensional form. It can be manufactured only in a semi-mass production, and it was challenging to translate the form into mass production in a factory environment.
This year marks the seventh anniversary of Design Miami. It is the second year that the fair in its Miami edition is taking place in a temporary structure erected adjacent to the Art Basel Miami Beach Fair, rather than in Miami’s design district. What is the mission statement of Design Miami?
Design Miami is a global forum for design. It is dedicated to presenting the best collectible of modern and contemporary design in the world; it seeks to provide a platform to the world’s best design galleries. I believe that the medium of collectible design is still in its infancy and to a certain extent, it is a field yet to be uncovered and discovered. It is the role of Design Miami to give this territory a platform, a showcase on the highest level that it deserves.
Design Miami is a global forum for design. It is dedicated to presenting the best collectible of modern and contemporary design in the world
What are the boundaries of the design displayed at Design Miami in chronological terms?
We show design produced from the early twentieth century to this day.
But I see that the majority of material presented here is dated from the postwar period onward, and that contemporary design is taking the primary place. I have not seen objects dating back to early modernism, Art Deco, or to the interwar era, and personally, I think that lacking that type of material is taking away from the ambition of showcasing the story of modern design. When you open auction catalogues by the major auction houses Phillips de Pury, Wright, or Sotheyb’s, I find that it is the juxtaposition of all periods that gives a sense of depth and broad aesthetic personalities, which is exactly what characterizes design collections today.
You are absolutely right in your observation. One of our main efforts is dedicated to bringing early material to Design Miami. Six month ago, at the edition of Design Miami in Basel, Switzerland, we had French Art Deco and work done at the Bauhaus School shown. It is strictly the strategic decision of the galleries that comes to determine the final choice and selection of work at the Fair.
Design Miami has expanded tremendously this year, with a 50% increase in participating galleries, with satellite exhibitions and many off-site exhibitions and events. It seems that the fair is also moving beyond the object design boundary into the territory of architecture. I particularly liked the restored Buckminster Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome and the reconstructed Dymaxion Car that are shown together at the design district. The opportunity to see an architectural structure by this visionary is a fresh addition to the vast contemporary design we see at the show. Can you illuminate on the new directions that Design Miami has been taking since you have taken the role of its Director, and where are you looking to further expand?
I believe that Design Miami has an educational role. Its mission is to offer our visitors the opportunity to view the entire picture of design. By showing vintage along with contemporary design, we create the link between the historical and the current, and that link is central and important to us. In contemporary design we are showing what I call “contemporary antiques,” meaning the antiques of the future, the design that in the future will be looked at as reflecting out time.
Can you give me an example of what you consider a “contemporary antiques”?
The work of Studio Job is an example of such.
I assume that it is the desire of many design galleries worldwide to take part in Design Miami. What are the guidelines for galleries to be eligible to participate? Can you tell me about the process of selection?
Design Miami established clear guideline, which is undertaken by a committee that oversees the selection of participating galleries. Every gallery represented in the Fair has to submit a detailed proposal, which includes not only a description of the pieces it plans to show, but also the program of the gallery, list of exhibitions, publications, and other details that illuminate the professional stand of the gallery. Whether the gallery collaborates with art museums is essential to this process. The members of the committee then make the selection and decision based on that proposal.
We only show original work. Re-editions, even when done legally, are not accepted.
Who are the members of that committee?
The committee is composed of representatives of the participating galleries who bring their expertise to the selecting process. Just to give me an example, Galerie Patrick Seguin’s specialty is in French Postwar design; Kreo, in contemporary design; Demish Danant brings expertise in design of the 60s and 70s, and so on.
Isn’t this a conflict of interest?
Not really. We have modeled this system on the process undertaken at the Art Basel Fair. But the selection of the galleries marks just one step in the entire process. Once the galleries set their booths before the opening night, the vetting begins. We bring experts from museums and auction houses, specialists who are dealers, curators, and collectors and they go through the show to make sure that all objects on display are up to the level of integrity that we require. So we are having two committees at Design Miami. The first determines the curatorial strategy and the second affirms the ultimate quality of the pieces on display.
I remember that a couple of years ago, a gallery from Japan brought new editions of furniture by Shiro Kuramata that have been recently issued by his widow. All of these pieces were taken off the floor on the night of the opening.
We have a clear policy when it comes to the original work versus reproduction, and here, at Design Miami we strictly show only what falls under the category of “original” design. We only show original work. Re-editions, even when done legally, are not accepted.
I would like to bring more historical material in order to tell the story of modern design.
Could you make a clear definition of what would be considered reproduction or re-edition? Would a piece of ceramic by Ettore Sottsass, which he designed in the 1980s and produced in 2005, be acceptable?
When a production is interrupted and objects go back to reproduction, we will not allow showing them at Design Miami. We are aiming for historic value and we wish not to confuse the audience and the collectors. What Ettore Sottsass produced during his lifetime would be accepted.
When Design Miami first opened seven years ago, it showed a large portion of modern twentieth-century design. This was quickly changing, and contemporary design became the dominant material at Design Miami. Now, with new participating galleries, we see that you are moving to that balance again. What is the portion of contemporary design within the fair that you are looking to achieve?
We are looking for a balanced dialogue between vintage and contemporary. This contextualization that we want to achieve is essential to us. We want to offer the visitor a chance to understand the story of modern design.
Talking about contemporary design, in your work as the Head of International Public Relations & Partnerships at Vitra, you had worked closely with some of the designers that have a strong presence in Design Miami, such as Konstantic Grcic, Hella Jongerius, and Jaspar Morrison. Sometimes it seems that it is a very small community of key designers whose work in the limited edition arena is shown at Miami and that their industrial design work is particularly celebrated. These individuals came to be known as “design stars.” Who determines who is in and who is out and how is it possible to break into this elitist list? Can you give an advice to young designers?
In our world, most designers are wearing at least two hats, that of the industrial designer and that of the designer working in the collectible design, limited edition arena. Whereas their mass-produced design is shown in shops and department stores, their later work belongs to galleries and museum exhibitions. Designing an object for mass production is a complex process, which often takes years to develop. And if we consider the fact that there are not that many great manufacturers who are willing to allow emerging designers the opportunity to substantiate their visions, creating collectible design, either one of a kind objects or limited editions is a way to experiment. Those galleries that are engaged in production, allow the designers they represent to try, to experiment without having the long list of restrictions that define the work at the factory. On the other hand, there are designers who don’t need a presence at the collectible design arena. Jonathan Ives, for example, doesn’t have the urge to develop an experimental piece of furniture. But Hella Jongerius needs the work in collectible design. She is at her best in that arena. As a designer of products, Zaha Hadid is mainly active in the collectible design territory, but she has done a couple of projects for Alessi, while Konstantin Grcic is first and foremost an industrial designer, who also creates collectible design; the Bouroullec Brothers do both.
Design Miami is a young venture that in a relatively short time has secured its position as the leading fair for contemporary design, a trendsetter. Why? What makes Design Miami more significant than other fairs?
First of all, we focus on design. We don’t show any other form of art, but design. Second, we are dedicated to quality. We grow slowly as long as we show the best design by the world’s best galleries. Quality is our message, it’s our philosophy, and we will not compromise.
It seems like the same galleries are showing here year after year. Do new galleries have chance to enter Design Miami?
This year we have introduced a section called Design on Sties, a new format which provides platform for new galleries to show contemporary design. These galleries are permitted to bring solo shows by contemporary designers in small booths of 30 square maters size. This time we are having a gallery from South Africa for the first time.
What should we expect to see next year in Design Miami that we have not seen this time? How do you plan to further enrich the fair?
I cannot tell yet, but it is a work in process. I would like to bring more historical material in order to tell the story of modern design.