One consequence of the sheer ubiquity of capital-A Art in Miami this past week—Art Basel in Miami Beach, Art Miami in Midtown, the Scope fair in Winwood—is that looking at design objects suddenly seems very refreshing. The crowds toward the close of this year’s fair were evidently looking for a little refreshment, with attendance still running strong late Sunday afternoon at Design Miami, the modern-and-contemporary mainstay in the big white tent just opposite the convention center.
There, exhibitors were generally positive about the 2012 experience. "I've done lots of fairs, and this one is the best," reported Patrick Parrish of New York gallery Mondo Cane, which was featuring work from Minneapolis-based design studio RO/LU. Parrish, who was marking his first year at the show, had tapped RO/LU and its oddball, angle-cut furnishings in response to show organizers' requests for more American-made work. "The French own this show," Parrish says: Since Art Basel attracts a certain class of buyer with a taste for more established, modernist design, European galleries are at an advantage, and collections like Parrish's helped Design Miami to diversify its offerings. Just the same, there still looked to be a preponderance of mid-century European work, from exhibitor Demisch Denant's suite of tables and chairs by designer Pierre Guariche to Galerie Patrick Seguin's items from Le Corbusier's Chandigarh project in India.
But Design Miami wasn't the only place to go for quality design-peeping. All over town, little surprises turned up. At the NADA fair in North Beach, the booth for Natalie Karg/CUMULUS overflowed with the eponymous gallerist's artist-designed outdoor furnishings, an unusual sight at an art show. "I'm the only one," Karg says. "It's challenging, it's out of the norm." At the Standard Hotel on the Venetian Causeway, artist José Paría turned interior designer for a small pop-up café serving cheap Cuban snacks to guests and party-goers. The Miami-based YoungArts Foundation, which promotes and rewards promising young performers and artist from around the country, unveiled its new offices in the former headquarters of the Bacardi company, a perfect modernist ensemble from the mid-1960s that seems to have been completely untouched by time (and is being judiciously untouched by its new tenants).
Of course, the hub of design in the city remained the famed Design District. Even as the area nabe undergoes a rapid transformation from cozy cultural enclave to glossy luxury lifestyle district, the design community here still seems vital. The stores stayed open late Saturday to welcome evening partygoers, and some even opened up on Sunday to take in a few final stragglers. Working the desk at the Jonathan Adler store, Pilar Campos was in high spirits. "Everybody wants to be here now," she says.