In Collaboration

Shanghai Bound

Design Miami

In the lead-up to Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai, we chat with co-curators Aric Chen and Violet Wang

Next week, Design Miami launches its first major event in Asia: Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai. Produced in collaboration with Made In House, the upcoming event—presented both IRL and online—will feature a curated selection of exceptional historical and contemporary design objects drawn from galleries and designers both within China and around the globe.

Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai will explore the curatorial theme Wu Gan: The Art of Design, which takes its name from a concept, first originated from the seminal 5th century text The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons (文心雕龍), that describes the sensory, emotional and spiritual relationships between the inner world of the individual and the external world of objects and environments.

In the lead-up to the event, we sat down with Curatorial Director Aric Chen and Deputy Curator Violet Wang to get the inside scoop on the upcoming event and their creative collaboration.

Curatorial Director Aric Chen and Deputy Curator Violet Wang. Photos by Mark Cocksedge (left) and Shen Siyuan (right)

How did you two first meet?

Aric Chen: Like everywhere, the design circles in China are tight-knit. Though Violet and I only met recently, she was someone who was recommended by a media colleague, and as it turns out, I already knew her work at T, Wallpaper* and Numero magazines, though I didn't realize I knew it.

Violet Wang: As Aric said, we just met recently, but Aric is a phenomenal curator and art director, and I had heard a lot about him prior to meeting. And it’s been a great pleasure to work together!

Describe the experience of working together on this project.

AC: What has been great for me is both how similar and different we are in our approaches. We’re similar in terms of our focus on the content of the work, the relationships that form between them, and our curatorial goals for the fair. But different in that Violet brings a fresh but complementary perspective, as with the fair's theme, which I developed initially, but which Violet refined and transformed through the concept of "Wu Gan.”

VW: The most exciting part of working with Aric is being able to enjoy his insight. For example, when we were discussing the topic of crafts for the exhibition, he expanded the traditional idea of craft to include digital craft, socially driven craft, and craft thinking. This was really enlightening, and such intellectual pleasures are always the most fun part of any creative work.

Any plans to partner up again in the future?

AC: I hope so!

VW: So do I!

Geo Transition Mirror by Chen Chen & Kai Williams. Photo © The Future Perfect

Tell us about a few, special exhibition highlights people can look forward to next month.

AC: On the historical front, we have important works from Prouvé, Jeanneret, Finn Juhl, Lina Bo Bardi, and Nakashima—but also an incredible selection of Shanghai Art Deco, which continues our efforts to broaden the historical narratives of design in the fair. We have Thomas Heatherwick unveiling his epic new Friction table for the first time, while we're also featuring Chinese designers like Lin Fanglu, Hao Zhenhan and Li Naihan who do things with textiles, ceramics, and lacquer, respectively, in ways you've never seen.

Thomas Heatherwick's new Friction Table. Photo © Heatherwick Studios

I also love the fact that we are able to show a large-scale contemporary Buddha sculpture by Jiang Sheng, who is known for his work in this genre, and whose participation poses salient questions about definitions of design and art in different cultural contexts. And I'm excited that Pearl Lam—one of the pioneers of collectible design in China and, in fact, a participant in the very first Design Miami in 2005—is making a return to the fair, in Shanghai.

VW: I think it’s a great chance for audiences and collectors in China to get an overall picture of collectible design in China and beyond.

Sakyamuni in a Mould Niche by Jiang Sheng. Photos © Jiang Jiaban

What are you individually most looking forward to from Design Miami Podium x Shanghai?

AC: I think, and hope, that this Podium will do exactly what it's meant to do: not just expand a market for design, but also expand our thinking about design and its possibilities by bringing different cultural contexts and histories in dialogue with each other.

VW: When we look back on the history of objects (Wu) in ancient China, we can see a grand landscape compounding aesthetics, ideas, urban life, and social customs. In fact, an appreciation of collectible design is deeply rooted in Chinese consciousness. I hope this Podium will revive this consciousness, especially in this era, when the virtual and physical worlds overlap.

Shanghai Art Deco rosewood bedside table with mirror and rosewood chairs (all 1930). Photos © Art & Deco Gallery Shanghai

For the younger generation, the physical presence of collectible design evokes perceptions, imaginations, and an awareness of an important history. For example, Art & Deco Gallery Shanghai will present a selection of Shanghai Art Deco furniture collected by Dingyi, featuring anonymously crafted design treasures from the past century that remind us of the origins of when Chinese traditional furniture met with Western design trends. These pieces represent the inception of modern design in China. Such understanding and awareness of historical continuity is important for Chinese audiences—and especially for young designers—both to understand and explore collectible design.

Love under the Hammer by Lin Fanglu. Photo © Art + Shanghai

Finally, what do you most hope guests take away from this event?

AC: Whether they're onsite at the fair, or visiting us online from abroad, I hope people come away reminded that there's still a lot to see and learn out there.

VW: I hope this Podium will stimulate people‘s curiosity and passion to know, learn, and explore more about collectible design. I hope that when they’ve left the fair, they will feel it has opened up a new world for them—and one that is just beginning. ◆

Located at No. 1 Waitanyuan in Shanghai, Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai runs November 4–14, 2021.

Ongoing news about the show will be shared via Wechat/ Design_Miami. Follow us! QR code here:

Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai