The opening of Design Miami on Tuesday had one of the most apathetic press conferences I’ve ever encountered, with the fair’s director, Rodman Primack, talking softly into a microphone, flanked by an unsmiling Peter Marino (in his usual leather S&M gear) and Marina Abramovic, wearing scrubs and staring hypnotically at-what? I don’t know. (“Not sure what she’s doing up there!” a publicist offered; turns out her Marina Abramovic Institute had its own booth with a special chair designed for “long durational performance,” at least according to the guy in the booth with the ponytail who looked exactly as I would expect a member of the Marina Abramovic Institute to look.) A swell of people walking around the opening had decided to waive this experience entirely and were loudly walking around the fair instead.
During a week where everything carries a corporate sponsor, Design Miami took things a step further by earnestly installing an Audi sports car on a revolving platform, complete with two suited representatives eagerly discussing the car’s features. “There’s a hybrid element as well!” one of them said. Good to know. Elsewhere, right next to the Fendi booth, there was something called “Perrier Presents Ephemera.” According to the wall text: “In celebration of beauty, and with a belief of infusing art into everyday life, Perrier-Jouët has commissioned Mischer’traxler to create a series of works inspired by its artistic heritage…Follow Champagne Perrier-Jouët on Instagram.” No, thank you! (As for the works, they were a bunch of tiny sculptures of plants. Some of them moved.)
Peter Marino was his own brand and had designed a booth, which was wrapped in leather with a cold steel floor and featured a wax sculpture of the architect, a chair that could only have been a black ballsack with a saddle on top of it, and the man himself, seated in a far more innocuous chair. Let’s call Marino the Selfie-King of Design Miami, eclipsed in a circle of people three-deep surrounding him in perpetuity.
In a veritable sea of fancy furniture, one surprise was the presence of Leo Koenig and Joe Sheftel, New York art dealers who were showing works by the Italian architecture collective The Memphis Group, about which both galleries are prepping exhibitions. (Sheftel, gesturing to a row of intensely angular lamps, dramatically uttered, “Sculptures,” and left it at that.) Both Koenig and Sheftel are regulars at Miami Basel, and this was their first time doing the design fair.
“Design is giving us a chance to collaborate in a way that we probably wouldn’t do with art,” Sheftel said. “Here, we’re not playing the field exactly.”
Koenig jumped in: “We’re approaching this with the enthusiasm and excitement that only a child would have.”
Later, I learned that the Ladd Brothers, Steven and William, who were standing in the booth of the New York dealer Cristina Grajales, are huggers. (My meeting them was, I believe, the first time an artist has hugged me at an art fair.) Steven described their installation of “shared childhood landscapes,” as stemming back to the playground antics of “boys vs. girls” and William went on to list how each work was specifically about some childhood friend or another, rattling off both first and last names. Then they asked me who my playground rival was. (Not that it matters, but: Patrick Evo–the name triggered a ghostly “Ooooh” from Steven. Patrick Evo, if you’re reading this, I still think you’re a dick.)
Grajales, the dealer, demonstrated the mechanics of a very complicated table, the functionality of which I do not have the vocabulary to describe. Removing a “do not touch” sign, she said, “We only put that there because people are brutes.”