By Giampaolo Benedini*

The great showcase for collectible design is food for thought about Design and its ultimate meaning

DESIGN: noun

1. Ideation and development of goods, services, processes for mass production embodying functional and aesthetic demands based on the needs of the intended user; also, industrial design.

This is the recurring definition of the term “design”.

The overview of all the products displayed at Design Miami 2018 in Basel, in contrast to the dictionary definition, proves a kind of “conceptual confusion”. To make myself quite clear, let’s start by analyzing the kind of objects visitors are presented – objects which can be divided , albeit with some exceptions, into three main sections:

Handicrafts – creative and not-so-creative – often revealing little regard for functionality;
• Objects potentially suitable for industrial production but still focused on a small-scale, artisanal manufacturing;
Industrially produced objects.

These categories, obviously exacerbated, can help us understand the intrinsic value of every piece featured in Basel, the leading fair for contemporary art increasingly focused on design collectibles. The main difference between manufacturing and industrial production lies in the predominant use of craftsmanship versus machines and in the final number of pieces produced – despite the latest introduction of sophisticated, numerically controlled machine tools is allowing today the creation of unique pieces otherwise impossibile to produce without complex systems and molds.
Having said that, the whole exhibition, in my opinion, might as well be entitled “Creative Miami” given that of all the object displayed, only a few were likely to be – at least intentionally – Design Products. Among them, Prouvé’s projects at Patrick Seguin Gallery, drawn from Jean’s working background as a blacksmith and from his ‘second life’ as a designer: his independent and original creativity can combine shape with metal craftsmanship to create seats, tables and furniture as well as structures, facilities for buildings and panelised modular façade systems.
Jean Prouvé architecture presented by Galerie Patrick Seguin - Design Miami 2018 in Art Basel

Jean Prouvé architecture presented by Galerie Patrick Seguin

Then we find the car design at Stuart Parr Collection welcoming us with three Iso Rivolta created by Giorgetto Giugiaro, world-class car designer and incomparable talent since car production changed substantially, reshaping his working attitude from solo player to unsurpassed conductor.
It’s still quite a mistery why three versions of the same car were on display – maybe because of a Chevrolet 8v motor or because Eng. Rivolta moved to the US many years ago. Iso started developing its first vehicles with Isetta, a small car with a two-stroke motorcycle engine which proved a commercial flop in Italy due, for the most part, to increasing competition from FIAT hatchback. However, the Isetta prototype contributed to BWM’s renaissance, paving the way for a new generation of cars built under Iso license.
Anyway, the Stuart Parr Collection is an homage to Italy, highlighting Italian creativity throughout 1960’s economic boom after World War ll. Car design in particular benefited most from this innovative blast, rethinking vehicles and bikes in terms of new uses – exemplary was FIAT 600, which soon became “the car for holidays at the seaside” or our world-famous Vespa, for freight transport.

My overall impression is that true design is quite a rare thing in Basel’s flamboyant showcase. It would be hard to express any further opinion on the other pieces – despite many of them looked pretty catchy and well designed, like Gaetano Pesce collection on view at Raf Simons for Calvin Klein’s installation.
I regret missing Eams’ furnitures at such a great event – absolute leaders in the industrial design field – or Knoll’s amazing creations for both the home and working space.

That was real Design.

That, is what’s hard to find here, under the lights of Design Miami/Basel.
Carpenters Workshop Gallery - London, NY and Paris - Design Miami 2018 in Art Basel

Carpenters Workshop Gallery – London, NY and Paris

*With a degree in Architecture at Politecnico (Milan), Giampaolo Benedini has been working both in the field of architecture and design. He managed building design services for commercial activities, industrial and residential areas, as well as renovations and restorations of historical buildings. He was involved in several projects in the car industry (Subaru, Lotus, Bugatti), and in the bike industry (Aprilia and Moto Guzzi) to help building new plants and retraining old ones. For many years, he worked as R&D Manager for Schirolli, an ancient Mantuan company operating in the office furniture sector. In 1973 he founded and directed Agape, introducing innovative products for bathrooms. In the 1990s, he took part in the concept, design & development of Bugatti EB110, acclaimed as best performing and technologically advanced grand touring supercar in the world. In 1995 he directed the Lotus Style Centre in Norwich, where he developed new projects like Elise, a small sports car embodying all qualities of the prestigious English brand. In 1999 he founded Benedini Associati involving Bibi and Camilla Benedini with the aim to give Design & Interiors more and more importance (his network is wide. Until now, he applied for over 600 design products, many of which in the bathroom and office space, but also in the electronic and industrial field. In 2009 he founded Benedini&Partners, a company with a special focus on architectural design for new constructions and major renovations of historical buildings.