Design Miami/’s newest curatorial director, Wava Carpenter, provides a preview of what to expect from this year’s viewings.
Wava Carpenter PHOTO BY KARLI EVANS
As Design Miami/ prepares for its return to Pride Park, the 17th edition of the fair takes on the theme of Human Kind while welcoming its newest curatorial director, Wava Carpenter. With a strong background in the organization of prestigious creative experiences, Carpenter has formerly served as the fair’s curatorial adviser and director of commissions, design and programming, as well as a curatorial fellow at New York’s Cooper-Hewitt museum. With over 35 gallery and curio exhibitions alongside an exciting lineup of partnerships and collaborations, we chat with the incoming director as she touches on the fair’s post-pandemic comeback, the approaching experience and what to anticipate from the 2021 lineup. Convention Center Drive & 19th Street, Miami Beach, designmiami.com
Zizipho Poswa, “Umthwalo uMamvulane” (2021), at Southern Guild PHOTO COURTESY OF: CHRISTOF VAN DER WALT AND SOUTHERN GUILD
This is the first Design Miami/ you’ve curated. What was that experience like?
This show has felt both new and familiar at the same time. When I was with Design Miami/ in the early years, we didn’t have curated themes— which is a wonderful addition. But it feels like a homecoming, as collaborating with designers, galleries and thought leaders on programming is what I used to do.
You were with Design Miami/ from 2006 to 2010. What made you want to come back?
I joined Design Miami/ at the start, when we were about to do our first show in Basel. I loved that feeling of building something of quality from the ground up. Now Design Miami/is in a stage of unprecedented growth, both online and IRL around the world. This is another moment of exciting creation.
Khaled El Mays, “Bar Cabinet” (2021), at House of Today PHOTO COURTESY OF: HOUSE OF TODAY
How do you think a year-plus of COVID-19 has shaped the 2021 fair?
The hardships brought on by the pandemic catalyzed a lot of plans that had been swirling around but not enacted, such as a more robust online business and expanded locations.
Tell me about this year’s theme for the fair, Human Kind, and how that particular theme came to be?
Creating better, easier and more beautiful lives is the most natural and most urgent focus following the past few years—not only in the wake of the pandemic but also racial and gender reckonings, protests and climate injustice. The design world has responded in a big way through providing initiatives to raise funds and awareness, critiques of how we need to do things differently and a lot of self-reflection.
Ebitenyefa Baralaye, “Portrait III” (2021), at Friedman Benda. PHOTO COURTESY OF: FRIEDMAN BENDA AND EBITENYEFA BARALAYE
How do you define the two aesthetics of the moment, the fantastical and the primordial, which are explored in the fair?
A great deal of the hottest contemporary collectible design has an otherworldly quality which seems to find two aesthetic expressions. One is like something from a fairy tale—colorful, exuberant and delightful. The other is much more controlled and sedate, incorporating monolithic forms and very fine materials in natural hues. The feeling is like something from prehistory but sublimely beautiful. Though different, the two expressions offer an unambiguous escape from the everyday.
What is the ‘best of the best’ component of Design Miami/ 2021 all about?
The world is in flux now, and we don’t yet know the lasting effects. But so far, the market for extraordinary objects from 20th century design icons is as solid as I’ve ever seen in my career. Auction prices are soaring. Design Miami/ has a well-established history of working with this highly collectible material, and that’s not going to change.