In the Mix

Curio Explained

Design Miami

Design Miami's Director of Global Exhibitions Jillian Choi explains why Curio—launching this week on the Design Miami/ Shop—is such a powerhouse program for the fair

This week, Design Miami/ Shop adds a new selection of shoppable collections under the moniker Curio, bringing one of the fair's most intriguing and successful programs online for the first time. Whether you're a regular attendee or not, you may be wondering though: What exactly is a Curio? We posed this question to Jillian Choi, Design Miami's Director of Global Exhibitions and a key curator for the Curio program.


For those unfamiliar, what is the Design Miami/ Curio program all about?

Design Miami/ Curio is a platform that invites designers, architects, curators, gallerists, and more to present immersive installations of design. Each one creates a focused narrative or, as the name of the program alludes, a kind of cabinet of curiosities. The presentations can range from the expression of a conceptual idea developed by a designer to a unique body of work curated by an emerging gallery—or even a single unique object that tells a compelling story.

This program allows for new and intriguing voices from across the design industry to participate in Design Miami while also providing an avenue for established galleries to experiment with new ideas. In this way, I believe it provides a great cross section of the global design landscape today.

Luis Pons Design Lab's Curio at Design Miami/ 2019: Tangara Collection by Luis Pons with Vermeil. Photo © James Harris.

Sometimes galleries participate in the main gallery program, and sometimes they participate as a Curio. What is the difference?

Curios are typically more focused presentations and, at the fair, significantly smaller in size. Galleries that participate in the Curio program may be new to Design Miami, or they may be galleries simply looking to do a less traditional, more conceptual or immersive installation. For several galleries, Curio has become an entry point into Design Miami, and later they join the main gallery program. Sometimes galleries participate in the same show with a gallery booth and a Curio booth.


Salon 94's Curio at Design Miami/ 2017: The Tom Sachs Collection. Photo © James Harris.

What is the selection process behind the Curio program? What criteria do you look for?

Participation in the Curio program is by application, and the selection committee consists of myself, Curatorial Director Aric Chen, and CEO Jen Roberts. We look for innovation, material quality, curatorial creativity, as well as conceptual rigor. For me, the most exciting aspect of Curio is bringing in new voices, new points of view, and new ways of seeing. Design Miami can be a great launching pad for a designer, a gallery, or a curator, and we welcome anyone to apply.

Patrick Parrish's Curio at Design Miami/ 2014: Surfaces on Which Your Setting and Sitting Will Be Uncertain by RO/LU with Various Projects. Photo © Various Projects

What are some standout Curio’s that Design Miami has presented to date?

I always remember the Patrick Parrish Gallery presentation of RO/LU with Various Projects in 2014, which I feel epitomized what Curio could be—a completely immersive and cohesive presentation and experience. And I remember it went quite viral. Similarly in Basel in 2015—I was not there, but I remember it as vividly as if I were—was Marmoreal by Dzek with Max Lamb, a full bathroom installation in a completely new material. It really reverberated around the world, which Curio has the power to do. It was quite inspiring for me.

I also loved J. Lohmann’s Modern Korean Ceramics installation in 2018, which highlighted, as the gallery explained, “five of the most talented emerging designers in South Korea working with clay.” And Crosby Studio’s Balenciaga Sofa in 2019—the most show-stopping, not-for-sale exhibition of one object done in the tongue-in-cheek way that only Harry Nuriev could do. So many more moments and many more to come.

Dzek's Curio at Design Miami/ 2015: Marmoreal by Max Lamb. Photo © James Harris

With the new Design Miami/ Shop website, you have the opportunity to showcase the Curios online. What should site visitors expect?

I think you will see a breadth of work from galleries and design studios with a strong vision and a point of view. You will see some new work by Atelier Biagetti presented by Patricia Findlay—which has always been a standout onsite at that fair—along with really thoughtful selections of work by galleries like Peter Blake Gallery and J. Lohmann Gallery.

Additionally you will see work by we+, an extremely innovative Japanese studio that would have presented for the first time in Basel this year. Art.Deco.Shanghai is another that would have been a first-time exhibitor in Basel; they are presenting a beautiful collaboration between designer Naihan Li and lacquer artist Runda Zhou.

There are many more Curios in the queue that will be shared online over the coming weeks… please keep coming back. We also have some exciting things on the horizon for December in Miami—online and offline. But a lady never tells. You’ll have to wait and see! ◆

Japanese studio we+ offers Swarm Vases through the Design Miami/ Curio program. Photo © we+
Art.DECO.Shanghai gallery offers Eggshell and Deep Sacramento Lacquered Screed by Naihan Li and Zhou Runda through the Design Miami/ Curio program. Photo © Art.DECO.Shanghai