We meet Rodman Primack, the design director of Miami/Basel, and tour the world's auction houses.
Design Miami/ Basel is the pre-eminent design fair for the new, cutting-edge, tried, tested, odd and collectible. Launched in Miami next to the Art Basel Miami Beach fair and now snuggled up with Art Basel’s Swiss summer HQ, it has a reputation for a lively talk series, big-deal collectors and high-quality pieces. And good parties. It runs from 16 to 21 June; Rodman Primack has been director since 2014.
There is a full diary for the art-and-design world this summer; how can you ensure all eyes are on Design Miami in Basel?
Thankfully the power of the Art Basel June fair as a destination for more than 40 years was entrenched long before Design Miami/Basel was established 10 years ago. On top of that we have an incredible mix of galleries – this year more international than ever – and a specially curated programme by hotelier André Balazs. There’s also the DesignCurio exhibition, launched in Miami and debuting in Basel this June.
Solo shows are popular with the press but do galleries need a little persuading to bet the house on one name?
Yes! Not only are they popular with the press but with collectors, myself and the entire team. It is a big risk, though, for the galleries to rely on the market’s enthusiastic response to a single-maker presentation. For many galleries the design fairs in Basel and Miami are the most lucrative weeks in their year; it is a risk but I’ve seen it pay off time and time again. People love to learn at the fair and feel like they have done so when they get completely immersed in an environment.
After 10 years of Design Miami, have galleries come to resemble living rooms more than showrooms?
Most of the galleries today certainly see the value of creating environments in which people can imagine work in a domestic context. This is one of the ways design differs from art: collectors aren’t buying design to put in storage but to really use and live with.
The art-gallery scene in San Francisco may not be as big as those of New York or LA but it fosters a genuine sense of community. Jessica Silverman (pictured), 32, thinks having less competition means more collaboration. “This might be counterintuitive or bad business,” says the gallery owner, “but the first people I want to appeal to are the artists in my programme. I want those already signed on to be excited about [new] artists we’re showing.”
She studied curatorial practice at the California College of Arts before opening her eponymous gallery in 2008; it has been housed in the Tenderloin district since 2013. The neighbourhood is rough around the edges but the move allowed her to swap a gallery of 75 sq m for a space three times that size.
With 15 international artists so far, Silverman’s approach to expansion is considered and her roster of emerging talent varied. “Our youngest artist is 26 and the oldest is in their 70s,” she says. As well as exhibiting at Frieze New York she is planning a trip taking in Eugene, Portland and Seattle to scope out new work.
When Monocle visits, staff are setting up for artist Ian Wallace’s Meta Masculin/Féminin exhibition. Vancouver-based Wallace watches as his photo-led pieces – inspired by the Jean-Luc Godard film – are hung. As an established name he’s far from emerging talent but he knows more Californian exposure won’t hurt.
“Jessica has a really good eye and attitude,” he says. “She has her own ideas and I’m picking some of them up. I am open to those nudgings.”
11 June 2015
Former furniture-seller Richard Wright picked up the gavel in 2000 to start up his eponymous auction house. Now established as one of the best places to procure coveted design pieces, its sale in June offers more than 200 lots, with an emphasis on 20th-century furniture and lighting. “Our auctions have a curated vision,” he says.
Estimate: $30,000 to $50,000 (€27,000 to €47,000)
Estimate: $20,000 to $30,000 (€18,600 to €27,000)
Dining table and stools
Estimate: $150,000 to $200,000 (€140,000 to €190,000)