Rosewood rarity: Apparently there are only two examples left worldwide of Alain Richard’s 1960 “Sideboard 816”, and one was displayed by Parisian gallery Pascal Cuisinier.
Photo © Uta Abendroth
Déjà-vu in Basel
by Uta Abendroth
Jun 27, 2016

Things tend to take a leisurely pace at Design Miami/Basel. Unlike at the art fair, visitors can simply drift through Hall 1 South without there being a squeeze or any hustle and bustle. Is precisely this actually a problem? After all, the trade fair is primarily about selling the objects on display – and so it is safe to assume that the fuller the hall, the higher the sales. And we meet old acquaintances, too. Above all the renowned Parisian galleries are fielding evergreens. Each year, Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé are in evidence with comparable pieces. That said, it is simply supply and demand that are reflected on the floor at such a trade fair, or rather zeitgeist and the trends that cherish objects by a select few designers. At any rate, it would be overly simplistic to try and explain the comparatively narrow range of offerings by saying that design and design history have few exciting things to show for themselves. The market decides – and precisely there the investments have been committed to the tried and true for years.

The two “PK22” armchairs by Poul Kjaerholm at the Dansk Møbelkunst Gallery booth exude a sense of history, for example. The wicker has acquired a marvelous patina since the 1960s and the frame of satin chromed steel has rounded edges. By contrast, the “PK24” recliner placed directly adjacent to it boasts a stainless steel frame. At the time it was incredibly expensive and was only used for outdoor furniture. The two armchairs cost 13,000 euros; the armchair with the straight edges is new and can be acquired from Fritz Hansen for just over 3,000 euros.

You’ll need to shell out no less than 40,000 euros at Rotterdam gallery Vivid if you want to acquire an original of Rietveld’s “Red and Blue” armchair made today by Cassina with a frame made of beech stained black, a blue seat and a red backrest (new price: approx. 2,410 euros). Here, the story the furniture tells plays a role: The 1954 model was gifted by the designer’s son, Jan Rietveld, to Dutch painter, sculptor and poet Corneille, who was a co-founder of artists’ group CoBrA. And as regards high prices, “CP-1” wall luminaires by Charlotte Perriand from the 1960s for “Les Arcs” that can be mounted horizontally or vertically thanks to their adjustable flat reflector can be bought from Galerie Laffanour for 2,000 euros a unit. In fact, French design from the mid-20th century predominates at the 11th edition of the Basel design fair.

A real highlight among the 46 galleries is Friedman Benda from New York, whose booth showed the complete “Microstructures” collection of 3D printing pioneer and Dutch designer Joris Laarman, including the “Soft Gradient Chair” and “Butterfly Screen”. Here it is, the future of design, printed or welded on the spot and from all sorts of materials.

The Patrick Parrish booth was marvelously unpretentious and thus pretty original. All Eames and Nelson fans couldn’t wait to get their mitts on the objects presented by the New York gallery. Then there was the presentation of the Herman Miller icons, which was pure understatement. The dense rows of objects called to mind a junk shop, with the mishmash countering the superelevation of individual pieces, as people generally like to do. Visitors were not only invited to take a wander through the closely packed chairs and luminaires, but the price was also part of the concept, with a small card lying next to each object showing all the details as well as the selling price in dollars.

The Milan gallery Nilufar in contrast showed elegantly reserved modern objects such as the armchair “811” by Gio Ponti from 1957 and a screen by Brazilian Joaquim Tenreiro, likewise from the 1950s. Franck Laigneau shook things up a bit with anthroposophical design, in which Art Nouveau and Rudolf Steiner played an important role, as did Jacques Lacoste with Art Déco pieces.

The force of the vintage and retro style, currently unmissable at any furniture fair, has seemingly pushed works by contemporary designers into the background overall. The Zaha Hadid Gallery was thus an exception in Basel. It showed extraordinary pieces by the architect, who died suddenly early this year, such as tables and ceramics.

All in all, the Design Miami hall in Basel didn’t really seem “filled”. Whereas last year various jewelry galleries and specialist watchmakers presented their precious items, this year the Parisian Groupe Hess had the chance to show several of its old timers: From Fiat to a Jaguar to Ferraris, a number of automobiles were lined up, occupying a considerable amount of space. Nonetheless, as far as special design-historical items go, it still fell rather flat.

With a marvelous patina: the “PK24” recliner and the “PK22” armchair, both with their wickerwork bodies – designed by Poul Kjaerholm and on show at the Dansk Møbelkunst Gallery booth. Photo © Uta Abendroth
Studio Formafantasma presented its “Delta” collection that brings Ancient Roman shapes and materials to Basel. Photo © Uta Abendroth
This example of Gerrit Rietveld’s club armchair “Red and Blue” costs 40,000 euros from Rotterdam’s Galerie Vivid. Photo © Uta Abendroth
Joris Laarman is considered one of the exceptional talents of his generation. He has for years been working with 3D technologies. On view here: his “Adaption Chair”.
Photo © Uta Abendroth
Laarman is represented by New York gallery Friedmann Benda. And their booth exhibited his “Aluminum Gradient Chair”. Photo © Uta Abendroth
Patrick Parrish is specialized in US design from 1940 to 1965. You can get an Eames’ “DCW”, produced by Herman Miller, from him for 4,500 dollars. Photo © Uta Abendroth
And for the same price: the “Chronopak Table Clock” (1949) by Irving Harper for George Nelson, which was manufactured by the Howard Miller Clock Company.
Photo © Uta Abendroth
Different design generations are brought together by Parisian gallery Jousse Entreprise: Jean Prouvé and Marc Newson. Photo © Uta Abendroth
Now autos as well: Parisian Groupe Hess presented among others a 1963 Ferrari 250/GT Lusso in the now cherished green. Photo © Uta Abendroth
The sculptural “Dragon Bench” by the 37-year-old Dutchman is printed in air by robot arms as it were. Photo © Uta Abendroth
Marvelously unpretentious: New York’s Patrick Parrish Gallery stages the design icons in a very nonchalant vein. Photo © Uta Abendroth
Milan’s Nilufar Gallery displayed Gio Ponti’s satin-upholstered “811” armchair, made in 1957 by Figli di Amadeo Cassina – in front of the six-part 1950s wall screen by Joaquim Tenreiro. Photo © Uta Abendroth
Galerie Feldt, which has two bases, one in Copenhagen and the other in Berlin, presented the red-and-black “Butterfly Chairs” by Nanna Ditzel. Photo © Uta Abendroth
Poul Henningsen’s 1959 “Fluorescent lamp” hung in a darkened extra space at Copenhagen’s Dansk Møbelkunst Gallery. Photo © Uta Abendroth