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Meet Aric Chen, DesignMiami’s next director—plus what not to miss at Rodman Primack’s last fair
Dec 5, 2018
Robyn Smith

“A good fair has a real identity and vibe to it,” Rodman Primack told BOH when we caught up with him earlier this year. In his role as chief creative officer of DesignMiami since 2014, Primack has transformed the design fair, which opens in Miami Beach today, into an elegant but ebullient celebration of design. For those already at the show, be sure to take it all in; this year’s edition will be the last one Primack curates, though he will remain part of the DesignMiami family as a global ambassador.

Last week, the fair announced the appointment of Aric Chen as its first curatorial director, in a new, year-long position that will have him managing DesignMiami exhibits, as well as commissions and collaborations in both Miami Beach and Basel, in 2019. Chen’s vision and programming will be released this spring. The former lead curator at M+ museum in Hong Kong, he is no stranger to design fairs—he has previously served as creative director of Beijing Design Week and organized exhibitions at past iterations of DesignMiami.

Meet Aric Chen, DesignMiami’s next director—plus what not to miss at Rodman Primack’s last fair
Aric Chen, DesignMiami's newly appointed curatorial director for 2019Mark Cocksedge

“We are delighted to incorporate Aric’s expertise and vision,” says fair founder and chairman Craig Robins. “His reach is global, and his institutional experience is at the highest level in the arts. When we set out to make the selection for this first curatorial director, Aric stood out, not only for his multidisciplinary approach, but also for his international sensibility. Aric’s perspective aligns directly with the collector base of DesignMiami and we look forward to his work in 2019.”

In the meantime, this year’s show kicks off today with galleries and presentations from 12 countries from around the world. Those already in Miami Beach can expect to take in the fair’s array of vivacious colors, new technologies and miscellaneous materials (think: flowers pulled from the trash and destroyed firearms) used to create the works of art. “This year’s gallery presentations showcase the best in collectible design from rare mid-century pieces to contemporary works using experimental materials and processes,” says Jennifer Roberts, chief executive officer of DesignMiami. “As the fair grows in reach and in depth, it is a delight to offer collectors and institutions alike, this range and quality of material.”

Meet Aric Chen, DesignMiami’s next director—plus what not to miss at Rodman Primack’s last fair
HEART (6835) by Sterling RubyCourtesy of Pierre Marie Giraud

Some highlights? Splayed organs and bisected torsos made of reformed tabletop materials hang on the wall at Pierre Marie Giraud, a work titled “Hearts” by American artist and ceramist Sterling Ruby. R & Company is showing a two-and-a-half ton marble soaking tub by the Haas Brothers, as well as a new piece from Katie Stout’s “Girls” furniture called Triple Girl Floor Lamp. London- and Warsaw-based sculptor Marcin Rusak unveils his Perma collection, furniture made from discarded, resin-bound flowers that have been cut lengthwise, at the Sarah Myerscough Gallery. Kasmin Gallery showcases never-before-seen works by Swiss designer Mattia Bonetti, including furniture that blends 17th-century European architecture, 20th-century painting and modern day 3-D printing. Lebanese artist Najla El Zein’s stool, on view at Friedman Benda's booth, looks like two people who are entwined with one another. And Kurimanzutto presents Sillas de México, which includes chairs by architect-designer Oscar Hagerman based on his popular 1969 Arrullo chair.

Southern Guild, which presented at Salon Art + Design in New York for the first time last month, debuts nine new works, including Stanislaw Trzebinski’s Extra Terrestrial, a biomorphic table, Atang Tshikare’s zoomorphic seats, Xandre Kriel’s Vos Altar table, and Charles Haupt’s Tropism Mensa Foliorum table. After his exhibit Endangered sold out at the DesignMiami show in Basel last year, Porky Hefer brings four “cocoon-like seating environments” comprising leather and woven grass.

“One of the things I love about Miami is the Wild West nature of it—the city is constantly reinventing itself,” Primack told us this spring. “Design Miami’s identity taps into that humor and casual looseness alongside something more serious.”

“DesignMiami has become the premier platform for collectible design, thanks to the leading market experts engaging in the development of each edition,” adds Roberts. “These extraordinary researchers, curators and authorities in the field are at the core of DesignMiami. We hope visitors discover and experience each presentation with enthusiasm, for our fourteenth year in Miami Beach.”

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