Amid the madness of Art Basel Miami Beach, the general consensus among fairgoers this year was that Design Miami was the sister fair to turn to when it's time to chill out. By comparison, Design Miami is smaller, it's more cohesive, and it always offers plenty of places to sit. More importantly, the fair's very international roster of exhibitors brought their finest game last week. Perusing the booths, we caught wind of the best trends to look forward to.
1. A new focus on African designers
Each edition of the fair for the past several years has been dominated by European galleries—namely the Paris-based powerhouses that have cornered the market on Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé. This year, however, the fair shone a new spotlight on emerging contemporary African designers and artists, thanks in large part to Cape Town-based gallery Southern Guild, the only African gallery to have a steady presence at the fair. A major highlight of the gallery's booth was Porky Hefer's "Fiona Blackfish," a suspended, handcrafted chair in the shape of an orca whale with a comfy sheepskin tongue.
New York gallery Friedman Benda brought works by Cape Town's Andile Dyalvane, who's also represented by Southern Guild in his hometown. The textured surfaces of his ceramics (↓) pay homage to the skin-carving and scarring traditions of the South African Xhosa tribe.
London-based Yinka Shonibare's "Windy Chair I (Orange and Blue)" took center stage at Carpenters Workshop Gallery, which now has locations in Paris, London, and New York. The piece's thin stainless steel and aluminum body has been sculpted and painted to resemble a swath of swaying traditional wax fabric inspired by Indonesian design, produced in Holland, popular in West Africa, and sold in London, resulting in a clever statement on trade winds; its curves are also surprisingly comfortable to sit on.
Has everyone been listening to Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz on repeat? The booths were extra hallucinatory this year, between the hand-beaded magic mushrooms and colorful creatures of "Afreaks"—a collaborative series by the L.A. based Haas Brothers and South African collective The Haas Sisters—and the sensory overload of Katie Stout's plush "Bedroom." Stout designed a total environment as part of the fair's "Curio" series with a caricature of a teenage girl in mind: oversaturated colors, hyper floral motifs, excesses in material and texture.
3. The return of Chrome
This endless "trend" towards warm shades of copper and brass and rigid geometries might have finally run its course. Shiny pieces throughout the fair seem to say that curved chrome is making its slow and steady return, from the stainless steel, fluidly sculpted Shi Jianmin table and chairs at Ammann Gallery to the mirror-polished arcs of Karen Chekerdjian's "Rainbow" series of lamps at Carwan Gallery.
4. Mirrors Everywhere
Feeding our narcissism and aiding our quest to take the perfect #artselfie, the booths were unusually equipped with mirrors this year. On the playful side were Jaime Hayon's paddle-shaped "Racket Mirror L" at Galerie Kreo and the polygonal, multi-faceted cuts of Sam Baron's appropriately titled "Jewels" mounted at Cristina Grajales gallery.
Elsewhere, themes of reflection take a darker turn—literally at Mexico City's ADN Galería, where Eduardo Olbés mounted sublimely polished chunks of obsidian and black jade on pedestals of wood to create "Smoking Mirror," and figuratively at Friedman Benda, where the nebulous outline of Marcel Wanders' "Mordrake" mirror is a commentary on body dysmorphia.
5. Fresh French Furniture
Vintage French furniture at Design Miami is never in short supply—somewhere out there is an endless font of Jean Royère and Le Corbusier pieces that the galleries know about and we don't. Although it's a recurring theme, the French offerings seemed surprisingly fresh this year, particularly in the Demisch Denant booth, where the New York-based specialists brought a selection of works from the '60s and '70s by Maria Pergay, Michel Boyer, and others working in sleek brushed nickel and stainless steel—perfectly timed to the return of chrome.
Galerie Patrick Seguin happened to install a set of 1962 aluminum Jean Prouvé shutters between a Pierre Jeanneret sofa and a wall-mounted flatscreen television playing a short film on Prouvé's work. The incidental display offered a compelling case for a midcentury relic's place in the contemporary home.
When a starchitect-designed house is completely out of range, opt for a pavilion. During the fair, real estate mogul Robbie Antonio unveiled Revolution, a new source of collectible, limited-edition, prefabricated works by high-profile architects, starting with a mobile dining room by Zaha Hadid, and an art space by Richard Gluckman.
For a more rustic look, there's a Prouvé-designed 4x4-meter military barrack at Galerie Patrick Seguin. The 1939 prefabricated shelter was designed for easy assembly during war time, and is reportedly the very last of its kind.
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∙ This Chair Is Shaped Like a Killer Whale That's Eating You [Curbed]
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∙ Toasting Pierre Jeanneret, the Le Corbusier Sidekick Who Made a Name for Himself in India [Curbed]
∙ 8 London Design Festival 2015 Trends We Loved [Curbed]