And now a word about art: Design Miami exists but for the grace of its big sister Art Basel Miami Beach, which predates the furniture fair by four years, and in whose economic tailwind the designers and design retailers here are generally flying. When it began, Design Miami was right in the backyard of the Design District; in years since, it's been moved to a tent just opposite the convention center, for the express purpose of being closer to the commercial action.
Yet the two sibling fairs remain somewhat estranged. Jim Olson, FAIA, the founding partner of Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig Architects, is one of the architects who spoke enthusiastically about what was going on across the road. "My wife is here with me, we’re gonna take the weekend and just look at art," said Olson, whose preoccupation with art as well as design prompted the title of his 2013 monograph, Art in Architecture. "You go into a place like Basel and every now and again I find I just zoom on something." From time to time, critics and practitioners at design functions would talk about migrating over to Basel to see what was what. But by late Thursday, few had found the time. To risk something like disciplinary vanity, there is something slightly more, well, appetizing about the design world as it presents itself in Miami, as opposed to the art world here. At an event for the now one-year-old, Herzog & de Meuron-designed Pérez Art Museum, director Thom Collins made special note in his remarks of the hoopla surrounding Miley Cyrus' controversial performance at a party here hosted by gallerist Jeffrey Deitch the night before. "Tonight we honor the real artists," he said, reminder of how artists and curators at Basel must contend with the constant media spectacle that accompanies the art fair. Design Miami? Not so much.
Early Thursday afternoon, designers Piero Lissoni, Ron Arad, and furniture-company chief Patrizia Moroso gathered at Ironside, a creative venue on Miami's Upper Eastside. Attendance was strong, but hardly crushing, and the trio talked chatted casually and candidly. Three quarters of the way through, Arad made an announcement: he had just designed a new mattress. It's name? "Patrizia," he said. Ms. Moroso had never seen it before, had heard nothing about it, but agreed on the spot (pending the necessary logistics, of course) to produce it. Away from the celebrity collectors and the big-money Basel art tourist, it was the kind of moment that perhaps only the design world could engender.