Design fair: Design Miami/

May 15th, 2023
Written by:
Nikolai Kotlarczyk

Design Miami/ Basel 2022. Photo credit: James Harris.

At a time when the design community is more global, diverse and digitally-connected than ever, Design Miami/ has become the leading physical manifestation of the cross-Atlantic relationship that has grown and been fostered within the design community. The Mindcraft Project sat down with Grela Orihuela – Senior VP of Fairs at Design Miami/ to discuss what makes their annual editions so unique within the world of collectible design.

Working alongside CEO Jen Roberts and her Miami based team, Grela Orihuela’s focus is firmly fixed on the bigger picture of Design Miami/. Much like the melting pot that is the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, Design Miami/ has forged a reputation within the design community as an event that reflects the growing diversity of the design world – both in terms of the work presented and the designers and galleries that travel to America and Switzerland each year. While the two fairs in tandem reflect the organisation that runs them, they are also in tune with the context of the locations and the history of the cities they operate within, as Orihuela details;

The works we exhibit are both a response to the interests of our audience and an instinctive curation of works that push past boundaries into new territory. In Europe we tend more towards the historic, whilst always keeping an eye out for contemporary discoveries. In the US we lean more heavily towards the contemporary, whilst paying homage to the historic. It’s an exciting balance of celebrating history, spotlighting today’s leading achievements, and discovering new talent – the full spectrum of collectible design.”

Grela Orihuela. Photo credit: Design Miami/.
Galerie Maria Wettergren at Design Miami/ Basel 2022. Photo credit: James Harris.
Etage Projects at Design Miami/ Basel 2022. Photo credit: Etage Projects.

While Design Miami/ Basel may be the more historically leaning of the two annual editions, platforms such as Curio has helped inject the event with a firm footing in the contemporary. Past exhibitors taking part in Curio includes Copenhagen-based Etage Projects as an emerging global design gallery back in 2016 – since becoming a regular of Design Miami’s Gallery program, and in 2021 featured Danish designer Maria Bruun. Bruun’s presentation titled “Reflected Surroundings”, was in itself an insight into this coming together of the historical and contemporary, with a series of works that touched on her heritage whilst forging a new language for Danish design.

“Reflected Surroundings” by Maria Bruun, part of Curio at Design Miami/ Basel 2021. Photo credit: Benita Marcussen.

Another important factor in the positioning of Design Miami/ Basel within the Swiss city, is the connection with Art Basel. Operating side-by-side, the two events support one another, and provide a mirroring effect that is important within the context of an emerging collectible design scene.

“The similarities are fundamental – a collector acquires a work, whether it’s art piece or object of design, to bring it home and live with it, enjoy it, and make it a part of their story. The manner in which an item can inspire and create a connection with a person is certainly present across both the art and collectible design fields. The uniqueness of the design community begins with its scale, it’s much smaller than the art world but a major, important part of the global creative conversation”

Etage Projects presented works by Soft Baroque as part of Curio during Design Miami/ Basel 2016. Photo credit: Etage Projects.

A growing aspect of this global creative conversation that Orihuela outlines, is taking place online and through social media. Whilst Design Miami/ allows a unique offering, bringing European design State-side and American design to Europe – providing the tactility and materiality of great design to be experienced in person, Orihuela is also aware that their global outlook means many design followers cannot attend each event in person. Orihuela and the Design Miami/ team are constantly exploring how they can present the fair, the exhibitors, and most important the objects themselves within this digital sphere, transporting a little bit of the magic of their events to followers all over the world. Orihuela and her team view the physical and digital as symbiotic and important to growing both Design Miami/ and collectible design into the future.

“In the years to come I see collectible design growing, expanding to a wider audience. We can thank global communication tools such as social media in part for this expansion, but I also believe that increased education around the collectible design field plays an important role in how design is interpreted, perceived and how it evolves in the cultural lexicon.”

Basel Swivel Chair by Maria Bruun. Photo Credit: Benita Marcussen.

Working across continents and time periods, Design Miami/ is an organisation that has to constantly be reading the cultural zeitgeist whilst being an educator about what is next. Orihuela places the success of their events at the hands of a flexible and constantly evolving team of individuals who are aiming to improve the experience of all those involved with Design Miami/. 2023 has already seen a satellite Shanghai event joining Basel and Miami, further extending an environment of collaboration and cross-pollination that is helping Design Miami/ grow its position at the head of a truly global design community.