This week, I got more than a few emails from friends and family members flummoxed by my trip to Art Basel. “You’re where???” exclaimed my mother, halfway believing I’d temporarily left my annual summer sojourn in Berlin to double back to Miami for three days. That’s because while Sight Unseen has been a longtime devotee of the Floridian version of the international design and art fair — stretching back to our I.D. magazine days — we’ve never managed to make it to the Swiss edition, which is even more extensive.
Turns out 2013 was a pretty amazing year to call our first: Design Miami/Basel moved into the incredible new Herzog & de Meuron building, expanding its show in the process, and Art Basel totally killed it with the Untitled show of large-scale works, featuring a new piece by the wonder twins of contemporary installation art, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. Artsy made my trip 10 times easier with its extensive online preview of bothshows (not to mention an ingenious iPhone-charging station at its ROLU-designed fair booth), and Craig Robins put the cherry on top by letting Kanye West preview his new album — and perform a song a mere 8 feet in front of me — with less than 7 hours’ notice. You totally should have been there, but if you weren’t, here’s the Sight Unseen rundown. Check it out, then head over to our Facebook album for 100+ more photos!
When Design Miami rolls around each winter, it’s hard to resist the siren’s song of sunshine in December, no matter how much you've decided you hate standing in line for parties or how high the hotel rates might balloon during that frenetic week. We’ve been known to pool resources with friends far and wide in order to hop on flights and hightail it out of New York on the promise of a stolen afternoon at the Standard’s pool, or even a press brunch at some Collins Avenue hotel du jour. But we’ve never made it to the event that started it all: Design Miami/Basel and its legendary accompanying art fair. Lucky for us, then, that we alighted this year on the perfect correspondent: Marco Tabasso, known in design circles as Rossana Orlandi’s right-hand man, who took advantage of a rare two-day break (the gallery sat this year out, after having debuted a massive Nacho Carbonell installation in 2011) to zip around the Swiss metropolis, capturing everything he saw for us on proverbial film.
The thing about Miami is that what you see when you do head down for the annual art and design extravaganza can often be frustratingly little. Between the city’s grueling traffic, the lure of its glittering beaches, the daytime pool parties, and the later-than-usual nights, it’s a wonder anyone can make it through the entire convention center and its neighboring Design/Miami tent, much less the satellite art fairs, the Wynwood galleries, the museum shows, the new boutiques, and the odd day trip out to see new work installed in places like the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. At the same time, as a journalist, you really have seen it all before, what with the endless previews and press releases. And so you’re caught endlessly swinging back and forth between anticipation and letdown, which you conclude can only be cured by a wine-soaked lunch on a patio overlooking the ocean, or an hour spent by the pool. (Are you getting a sense of our week yet?) Of course, some work had to be done, so though a few of our favorite projects went undocumented, we managed to catch the majority of the rest on film.
We had a dream for ICFF this year: to set up a "Sight Unseen Canteen" staffed by an avant-garde chef who would purchase food items from the conference center cafeteria and recast them into amazing gourmet meals, a bit like the now-defunct website Fancy Fast Food. The reason we had this dream (which we still hope to someday realize) is that no one in their right mind ever has anything good to say about the Javits itself — the climate, the lighting, and of course, the hideous, overpriced cuisine — and so pretty much everyone, we figured, would get the joke. If we could add on a foot massage station, a napping pod, and a daylight simulator, our vision would truly be complete. But alas, this year all there was to comfort weary fairgoers like us was plain old great design, and the joy of running into old friends and colleagues, and so we had no choice but to settle for that. We came, we saw, we conquered.