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Fri 25.6.

Medium Rare: Architonic at Design Miami Basel 2010 (CH)

Posted by Simon Keane-Cowell on 25.06.2010 - Tagged as: , , , ,

'Secretaire' from Maarten Baas's 'Grey Derivations' series, shown by Mitterrand + Cramer; image courtesy of Mitterrand + Cramer

Described by its organisers as ‘the pre-eminent global forum for collecting, exhibiting, discussing and creating design’, Design Miami Basel, the annual European get-together for those who like their design a touch on the exclusive side, put on a robust show this year. With the love-it-or-hate-it market for limited-edition design and one-off pieces clearly here to stay, Architonic spent some serious fair time with three of the scene’s leading international design gallerists…

'The Bush of Iron' by Nacho Carbonell, shown by Rossana Orlandi; image Tatiana Uzlova

‘The most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least.’ So goes Charles and Ray Eames’ old design principle. You’d be hard pushed, however, to find such a democratic design mantra, derived as it is from early 20th-century modernist ideology, being chanted at Design Miami Basel, the annual European installment of the international limited-edition-design show. If the Eameses subscribed to the notion of design as something that can, and should, improve our everyday lives, then a trade-fair hall full of wealthy design collectors, curators and the odd celebrity poring over exclusive design pieces that, for the most part, eschew industrial-design processes and which come with a hefty price tag, is about as far as you can get from this belief.

'Hotel California' cabinet by Ettore Sottsass, 1966, shown by David Gill Galleries; image Thomas Brown

I’ll level with you. I was always one of the cynics. I found it hard to view limited-edition design in terms other than purely financial ones. The problem for me was that design was precisely not art. Instead of the metaphoricity, the figurativeness of art. design was all about having a clear utilitarian function, and, as such, couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be commodified in the same way. (Now, of course, design can sometimes function on a metaphoric level, too, and art can be described as functional. But that’s a discussion for another time.) Yet, having spent time at this year’s Basel show with three of the international design scene’s most articulate and, it has to be said, charming design gallerists, my position has changed somewhat. A Damascene conversion this hasn’t been, but, rather, a realisation that policing the definition of design doesn’t do anyone any favours.


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