Art Week Miami — such as it is in the COVID age — kicked off Friday with the opening of one of this season’s few in-person events: a scaled-down version of Design Miami/, complete with masks and safety protocols.
Those venturing out to the fair will find a mix of old – very old – and new for an Americas-themed show inside the Design District’s Moore Building.
“We plan the theme a year and a half in advance and we knew with the election this year and everything going on that we wanted to showcase America’s diversity through design,” said Jennifer Roberts, chief executive officer of Design Miami.
That included reaching back to the Jurassic Period, with two rare fossilized dinosaur skeletons that reference the land that existed long before humans came aboard. The long tail of the plant-eating Camptosaurus presented by Jason Jacques Gallery points you toward Santa Fe-based Shiprock Gallery’s Hopi kachina figures and Native American tapestry.
Then, follow along to pieces by artists Michelle Erickson and Roberto Lugo, who both create ceramics that play on American history. Erickson’s dinner plate on display transposes images of modern-day political figures onto a platter that mimics colonial-era china. On Lugo’s colorful, glazed teapots shown by the Wexler Gallery, Kamala Harris, James Baldwin and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among others, make an appearance.
“It’s nice to see something pretty and beautiful about the Americas when we’ve been going through so much this year,” said John Lin, a Miami art collector who attended the opening.
It was one of the few outings he said he’s made during the pandemic. The building’s round, one-way layout made it feel safe, he said, because it prevented visitors from bumping into one another.
“This reminds me of the show when it started,” Lin added. “I actually prefer this format; I feel it’s more personal and intimate.”
Furniture is also part of the show. That includes a 1960s-era wooden desk by Danish designer Bodil Kjaer featured in several James Bond movies and presented by the Dutch Morentz Gallery, and a seemingly submerged bronze bench by the designer Virgil Abloh from the Carpenters Workshop Gallery, which speaks to the urgency of sea-level rise.
But that’s just the first floor. There’s plenty of Instagram-friendly pieces upstairs including glowing banana lamps by the European design firm Studio Job (a cheeky reference to the infamous Art Basel banana from last year, perhaps?). Twin mirrors by the London-based studio Soft Baroque with the words “Help” and “Relax” written on them feel like the wall hangings we all need to get through the remainder of this year.
Other highlights include the installation Curiosity Cloud, designed by the Austrian mischler’traxler studio for Maison Perrier-Jouët, composed of glass bulbs containing replicas of insects common in the U.S. The installation comes alive as viewers walk past. A limited edition t-shirt designed by artist Tschabalala Self is for sale at the fair. All the net proceeds will be donated to Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit promoting educational opportunities in Liberty City.
A $22.50 ticket with timed entry available at designmiami.com gets you inside the fair, but those who’d rather watch from home have that option, too, as all objects will be displayed online.
Still, for those who go in person, other charms await throughout the Design District. They include a giant swing that will transport you back to simpler times, created by the Chilean art collective Great Things to People.
Over the next 10 days, art fans can indulge in in-person exhibitions and experiences at museums, private collections, and hotel grounds in Miami Beach and Overtown. Or they can simply stay home and check out virtual fairs and art talks from the comforts of home.