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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Much was made this year about the rejuvenation of the Design District (there were huge signs on every corner pointing the way to “Luxury Boutiques” just in case you didn’t get the memo). To our eyes, the amount of work on display there seemed on par with previous years, but the district did have the distinction of being home to our favorite project, Architecture for Dogs. Spearheaded by Kenya Hara, the project asked world-famous designers and architects to create open-source, breed-specific houses for 12 different kinds of pups. (That’s Konstantin Grcic’s mirrored perch for a toy poodle, modeled by Monica, above.)

At Art Basel Miami Beach 2012

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.
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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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