Design Miami

At Design Miami, Modern Art’s Next Masters (Photos)

From ROLU to Jens Praet, a look at the best of the best coming to Florida this weekend. By Blake Gopnik.

Courtesy BOOO

Schizophrenia reigns this weekend at the great Design Miami fair, one of the world’s best places to see and buy modern and contemporary decorative arts. There’s a grand spread of the Old Masters of modern design—Rietveld, Eames, Prouve, and the rest—and then, tucked mostly into the farther corners, there are young hotshots breaking new ground. It’s almost as though you were showing Damien Hirst beside Michelangelo. Since the Old Masters will take care of themselves, this slide show presents works only by the best of the new talents, with ideas that still feel freshly minted.

—Blake Gopnik

 

Courtesy BOOO

The 'Surface Tension' Lamp, by Front

I wrote about this project last summer, when it was still just a prototype. The idea seemed great: make a lamp whose bulb is nothing more than a series of soap bubbles blown up around an LED. But I did wonder if the Swedish design team would manage to turn out a working production version. With the help of a firm named Booo, they have—and it's fabulous. Almost all of modern design has been about stability and permanence; Front manages to celebrate the evanescent instead. Like the bubble blowers painted by Chardin, these lamps seem poignant as well as gorgeous. As Front points out, in the 50,000 hours it takes for the LED to die, something like 3 million bubbles will have formed around it. (So long as you keep the soap reservoir filled.)

Courtesy BOOO

The 'Surface Tension' Lamp, by Front

... like all popping bubbles, Front's leave a soap scum beneath where they burst. Placement over a water feature might be ideal ...

Courtesy Industry Gallery, DC

Jens Praet's 'Shredded Elle Decor'

Industry Gallery, founded in Washington, D.C. just a few years ago, has become one of the most interesting players in the world of innovative design. For this year's Miami event, owner Craig Appelbaum is presenting work by Belgian designer Jens Praet, who is based in Italy. The designer has taken shredded surplus issues of Elle Decor and cast them in resin as furniture. His pieces arrest the neverending flow of design fashion, almost as though they're worried that they too could become surplus commodities.

Courtesy Industry Gallery, DC

Jens Praet's 'Shredded Elle Decor'

Of course, Praet's pieces comment on our throwaway culture. He pointed out to me that even a small office can produce enough shred in a day for him to make a sizeable piece of furnitue.

Victor Hunt 2012

The 'BLOCK' Containers by Sylvain Willenz

In 2008, Belgian designer Sylvain Willenz was offered the chance to work with a glass research facility in France. One of the results was his BLOCK series, now on view at Design Miami in a booth organized by the dealer Victor Hunt. Willenz used sheets of styrofoam to construct the simplest imaginable objects—a basic cubic vase, a file holder that's the minimum required to do the job. Then he had those impermanent maquettes solidified as cast glass.

Ramy Naymon

'Sandblasted' dishes by Noam Dover and Michal Cederbaum

For Design Miami, the Tel Aviv gallery Design Space is presenting works by the Israeli duo Noam Dover and Michal Cederbaum. Their Sandblasted dishes are just that: classics of European tableware with most of their surface patterning eroded away. It's almost as though Dover and Cederbaum are revealing the modernist purity that undergirds even the most elaborate ornament. Or is modernist purity being revealed as doing violence to our ornamented past?

Courtesy ROLU

ROLU's Riffs

The Minneapolis firm ROLU makes beautiful objects that think hard. Some pieces in their line are directly inspired by works of fine art. In this plywood chair, ROLU has taken inspiration from the great modern artist Scott Burton, who used the shapes of design to make useable sculpture. Here, ROLU has reversed the process, using the shapes of sculpture to make barely useable design. "We're using art history as a material," said Matt Olson, a founder of the firm.

Courtesy ROLU

ROLU's "New Ulm Chair"

ROLU's words on this piece:

"Based loosely on the legendary (in our minds) stool designed by Max Bill for the students of the Ulm School of Design. We like to think the silhouette of this chair reflects how a 5 year old might draw a chair. A stash area beneath for magazines, a laptop, or even a sandwich."

Courtesy Ornamentum

"Wilhelm Tell's Shot" by Johanna Dahm

The jewelry gallery Ornamentum, based in Hudson, N.Y., is showing a recent project by Johanna Dahm, who is Swiss. (Her project's title gives that away.) To make this series of rings, Dahm takes a brutal-looking black machine gun—hardly standard equipment on any jeweler's bench—and blasts a hole through tiny silver and gold bars and gold coins, usually kept pristine as a store of wealth. Violence lurks underneath most precious things; Dahm brings it to the surface.

Courtesy Ornamentum

Wearable Damage, from Johanna Dahm

Dahm's blasted ingots are surprisingly wearable—and if they pinch just a touch, that's probably a good reminder that wealth ought to be worn with care.