In the Mix

Basel Preview

Design Miami

A sneak peek at debut presentations at next month’s Design Miami/ Basel

The 2021edition of Design Miami/ Basel is just over a month away, and the excitement surrounding this year’s fair is palpable. After a forced year off, the design community—like the whole world—is eager to connect again in person.

In addition to the much-anticipated return of the global design calendar, this year’s Basel fair promises extra excitement thanks in part to a number of debut presentations. Alongside highly anticipated design offerings by esteemed longtime partners such as Galerie kreo, Galleria Rossella Colombari, MANIERA, and Galerie Patrick Seguin (to name just a few!), the September fair will also play host to over a dozen presenters from around the globe making their Basel debuts across Gallery, Curio, and Design at Large installations—injecting even more energy into the event.

In anticipation of next month’s many fresh faces—including inaugural presentations by the likes of Noemi Saga Atelier, Galleri Format Oslo, Harry Nuriev, Nadja Zerunian, AGO Projects, Hemmerle, and more—we chatted with a few newcomers about what to expect from their first-time Basel presentations.


Geoffrey Diner Gallery: Historical Masterpieces

Unique Games Table from Casa M.T. by Franco Campo and Carlo Graffi, 1951. The duo studied under Carlo Mollino, and this unique table was created the same year the duo received their architecture degrees from Politecnico di Torino. Photo © Geoffrey Diner Gallery

Husband-and-wife team Geoffrey and Maureen Diner of DC’s Geoffrey Diner Gallery are approaching Basel with optimism and excitement. As Maureen Diner says, it will be “a celebratory return to the live fair [format]—alongside colleagues who are among the most respected and best design galleries in the world.”

For their Basel debut, the duo will share a selection of exceptional American and European historical works. “In the spirit of turning the page toward a hopeful future, we’re inviting guests to revisit two influential and legendary American icons, George Nakashima and Louis Comfort Tiffany. We will bring examples of their most remarkable pieces,” Ms. Diner says, “each custom designed during their most prolific periods of production.”

The Frosh Family Sanso Reception House Table and Chairs by George Nakashima, 1981. Photo © Geoffrey Diner Gallery

One such example is the Frosh Family Sanso Reception House Table and Chairs, which Nakashima built for judge Stanely Frosh, a family friend, in 1981. The rare Sanso table features two large, bookmatched English walnut slabs atop a delicate support system; the chairs boast single slab seats. “This is likely one of the earliest of these Sanso forms,” Ms. Diner notes, “which Nakashima later adapted for his [famed] Altars for Peace.”

They’ll also present a large, museum-worthy 1903 Fire Screen by Louis Comfort Tiffany in wrought iron and glass “chain mail,” originally made for Cro’Nest, architect Claude Fayette Bragdon’s home in Rochester, New York. “The works of Tiffany remain the gold standard in decorative art,” Mr. Diner says.

“As American dealers heading over to Switzerland,” Mr. Diner tells us, “we thought it was an ideal opportunity to present American, blue chip masterworks. In keeping with our own cross-collecting approach, though, we’re also inviting people to enjoy a variety of [works by] top designers. In addition to Nakashima and Tiffany, we’ll also be showing Italian pieces, including a 1951 Games Table by Campo and Graffi, as well as midcentury Scandinavian design.”

“We love the idea of presenting iconic, historical American influences at the same time that so many of our fellow dealers are showing wonderful works being made today,” Ms. Diner concludes. “In the vein of the cross-collecting experience; all these works can play nicely. The way we see it, the next Nakashima is out in the world right now.”


Peter Blake Gallery: Shaping Color by Germans Ermičs

Rendering of the upcoming spacial intervention Shaping Color, featuring works by Germans Ermičs, 2021. Rendering by Petty Detail; courtesy of Germans Ermičs and Peter Blake Gallery

Laguna Beach-based Peter Blake is widely regarded for his expertise in West Coast minimalism, with a focus on the California Light and Space movement. His namesake gallery expanded its gaze to include collectable historical design in 2015. Next month, the gallery presents its first-ever Curio in Basel—as well as its first contemporary design offering—with a site-specific, immersive installation by Latvian-born, Amsterdam-based designer Germans Ermičs.

Ermičs is a rising star who’s made a name for himself with refined, color-driven glass furniture and objects that blend the worlds of art, design, and architecture. And Ermičs’ signature play on light, color, and space—evocative of the minimalist artists of 1960s Southern California such as James Turrell and Larry Bell—makes him a natural fit given the gallery’s roots.

A preview of Shaping Color,  2021. Rendering by Petty Detail; courtesy of Germans Ermičs and Peter Blake Gallery

As Blake tells us, the installation “will critically extend Ermičs’ practice onto the walls, eliciting a phenomenological viewer experience. We hope viewers will take away a newfound appreciation for Ermičs' focus on aesthetics and material, and their relationship with surrounding environments.”

Asked what he’s most looking forward to in Basel, Blake says, “The gallery is incredibly excited to unveil our expansion into contemporary design after five years of a purely historical design program. We are interested in how our European clientele will engage in Ermičs' work, and the opportunity to connect with collectors of contemporary design.”


OK Kim: Merge

The Merge series by OK Kim, 2021. Composed of natural lacquer on steel. Photos © Jandee Kim

Finally, Seoul-based, emerging artist-designer Ok Kim will make her Curio debut in Basel with Merge, a furniture series inspired by the Korean practice of stone stacking, often in front of temples, as a wish for good fortune. Kim’s collection embraces traditional Korean Ottchil—a natural lacquer material and technique found in some east Asian countries, often resulting in shiny red or black surfaces—with a contemporary twist marked by bold colors and sculptural forms.

For each piece,  Kim begins by applying a base coat of lacquer and fine sand atop a steel structure to achieve an uneven surface. Then she applies several layers of colored lacquer in varying hues in a laborious process that takes months to complete—alternately sanding and lacquering to create her ideal “merged” chromatic combinations. The blended colors, she says, represent the accumulated wishes people make through the layering of stones—an accumulation of positive energy that adds beauty to the world.

Seoul-based artist-designer OK Kim makes her debut in Basel next month with the Merge series. Photo © Ok Kim

Kim began the Merge series in 2016, and for her Basel debut, she’s crafting Basel Nights, a new work intended to express her good wishes to all the artists and designers who’ve presented over the years in Basel.  The piece’s palette reflects “how I imagine the nights in Basel are—dark blues, shimmering with the lights of fireworks reflected off the Rhein River.”

Notably, September marks Kim’s first trip to Basel ever, as visitor or presenter— a long-dreamed for wish of her own come to life. As Kim says “I can’t wait.”

Neither can we. ◆


Watch this space for more Basel news in the coming weeks!