Kwangho Lee at Design Miami/Basel 2018

Kwangho Lee On Using a 15th-Century Technique To Make Today’s Coolest Furniture

At Design Miami/Basel this week, Korean designer Kwangho Lee is presenting his latest work with the New York gallery Salon 94 Design — a 25-piece offering, spanning seating, side tables, cabinets, lamps, and planters, that continues Lee’s career-long quest to resuscitate enamel’s old-fashioned image. “Korean people aren’t very interested in it as a traditional material,” he explains of his longtime technique, chilbo, which dates back to the 15th century. “They think it’s something boring and old-fashioned.”
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Tauba Auerbach, Ghost/Ghost, 2013

At Design Miami/Basel and Art Basel 2014

If you've never been to the Swiss version of Art Basel and Design Miami/Basel, what they say about it is pretty much true: If Miami's overall vibe seems to put partying, relaxation, and hedonism first and serious business second, Basel is decidedly the other way around. People wear more clothes in Basel. Everything is twice as expensive. If there's one obvious advantage — for a journalist or casual observer — to attending Basel over Miami, it's that you're far less likely to be distracted by hangovers, pool parties, boozy brunches, and beach FOMO. You spend the entire day scrutinizing the actual work, and if you're lucky, like we were, you come home with a camera full of satisfying discoveries.
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Upstairs at the show, one of our first finds was this splatter-painted stool at Salon 94's booth, which turned out to be the latest work by SU faves Kueng Caputo.

At Design/Miami Basel and Art Basel 2013

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 both shows (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.
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NAab

Study O Portable’s Neon Alphabet

Whereas most of us may never fully grasp the meaning behind the testicular descension metaphors and self-referential glyphs woven throughout Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle, the message behind his Drawing Restraint series — which has seen the artist challenge his creation process with obstacle courses and 270-pound dumbbells — couldn't be more relatable: creativity flourishes in any struggle with limitations. Many designers, for example, profess to do their best work under the pressure of client briefs; then there are those, like the London duo Bernadette Deddens and Tetsuo Mukai of Study O Portable, who in the absence of such briefs will invent their own rules to work around. Since they started their studio in 2009, the couple have been using the alphabet as a testing ground for aesthetic and material experiments, producing letter sets in various combinations of wood, leather, and plastic that must conform to strict, self-imposed standards of size and legibility. "It's really satisfying to work on the puzzle an ABC poses depending on one's materials and techniques," says Deddens. Their most recent is the Neon Alphabet, "a cross between signage, jewelry, and a font" that debuted at Design Miami/Basel this June with Belgian gallerist Caroline van Hoek.
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Mess In Messe Platz

At Design Miami/Basel 2012

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.
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His best-known sculptures — like this one, from a 2007 solo show at Greene Naftali — demonstrate how Drain typically deploys those fabric scraps and homemade knits: Generously, and with abandon. The show’s slightly nonsensical press release at the time called it a “gender-bent amalgamism of bent tube steel and metal covered in a stylish frenzy of patterned fabrics, part Frank Stella and part parade float, part corporate sculpture and part strip club decoration.”

Jim Drain, Artist

It’s a wonder that Jim Drain isn’t a hoarder of epic, A&E-worthy proportions. Sure, nearly every corner of the 3,000-square-foot Miami studio he shares with fellow artist and girlfriend Naomi Fisher is crammed full of stuff — chains, knitted fabric scraps, yarns, paint cans, talismen, toilet tops, costumes, books, prints, past works, and parts of past works that have been dismembered, all jockeying for attention. But considering Drain has worked with 10 times that many mediums in his nearly 15 years of making art, fashion, and furniture — often incorporating junk found in thrift stores and back alleys — hey, it could be a lot worse. “My dad will find something and go, I got this weird thing I think you’ll like, and my friends do it too, and I’m like, I’m not a trash collector!” he insists.
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