Report from Design Miami

05 Dec 2009|Darrel Rhea

Most of my career has been spent on the front lines of commercial design where the rules and standards are quite clear. Design needs to be clearly understood by the masses. I am in Miami attending two events this week; Art Basel and Design Miami where the rules are very different.

Art Basel is the largest contemporary art fair in the Americas where the fewer people understand and appreciate the art, the better. While you can find works by Picasso, Chagall, Duchamp, Dali, etc., this is really a place for recent works by artists that few have heard of except in the rarified circles of the global art elite. It is place where technique and craft might not matter at all, and where concept might either be everything or nothing (the lack of concept might be the concept…). Novelty, cleverness and uniqueness are what are important. As a designer and artist, I can appreciate much of what I am seeing here (many thousands of works from several hundred dealers), but I must admit, it is a cerebral response. I get it, but most of it leaves me cold. Call me old fashioned, but I like to be moved and inspired by art.

Design Miami plays on a different edge of art….

Here are furnishings, lighting, house wares, and more, some of which are meant to be used, some are meant as collectables. The Design District alone has 147 studios, most supporting contemporary interior design. This neighborhood gets my blood moving as I peruse the most beautifully crafted furnishings in the world; many are unique concepts in limited editions. I find it interesting that I came here to be inspired by contemporary art and what I am lusting over – what I am moved by— are exquisite Italian chairs, couches, lighting, and tables from Moroso and Cappellini.

The insight for me is that I care most about fine art that celebrates technique and craftsmanship and delivers an emotional wallop. Contemporary art is fun and intellectually interesting, but I don’t aspire to be a collector.

The melding of industrial design, art and hand crafted manufacturing is something that has moved me since I was a teenager walking around Milan with my backpack. That experience caused me to pursue a career in design, and now I am rediscovering my passion for it. Humm. Perhaps that now the last of our four kids has left for school, I could actually consider some iconic Italian furniture….

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