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The Intersection of Art and Design at Art Basel Miami

Over the weekend, Art Basel Miami came to an end. The week-long art event takes over South Beach showing some of the best painting, photography, performance, design, and sculpture from artists working all over the world. The following is part of a series of wrap ups from the week by our tireless contributors.

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 artwork installed in places like the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. At the same time, as a journalist, it feels like 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.

Much was made this year about the rejuvenation of Miami's 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 Sight Unseen co-founder Monica Khemsurov, above.)

Sou Fujimoto’s No Dog, No Life house for a Boston terrier, made from square panels of Japanese cypress and transparent acrylic board, creates storage for dogs or humans. In the background is Kazuyo Sejima’s super-fluffy papasan-style house for a Bichon Frise, which we frankly wouldn't mind having for ourselves.

We weren’t so sure about Reiser + Umemoto’s face-covering Cloud for a Chihuahua, though the architects swear by it: “[It] responds to the Chihuahua’s love of burrowing and playing ‘hide and seek.’ In the Cloud the dog is warm, protected, and secure. Furthermore, it serves as a veil that neutralizes preconceptions about the size of Chihuahuas.”

Nearby at Louis Vuitton was a delightful collection of travel accessories called Objets Nomades, though don’t let their diminutive nature fool you: Most of the prices could compete with the blue-chip artworks on view across the bay. Shown are Barber Osgerby’s solar-powered Bell Lamp ($3,350) and the Campanas’ hanging travel cabinet ($51,500).

The most surprising piece was this posh, relatively straightforward update of a stadium seat in prototype form, by Maarten Baas. The experimental furniture designer often works in flowing forms, hence Moncica's shocked assessment: “It doesn’t look like it’s melting!”

After staying in Miami for the week in a quad room with bunk beds at the new Roman & Williams–designed hipster hostel The Freehand, we were intrigued to see the airiness of Le Cabanon, a 1:1 reproduction of Le Corbusier’s one-room French seaside retreat, on view at the Cassina showroom. Let’s just say the man had a serious way with built-ins.

Faux windows replicating Le Corbu’s view.

Back at Design/Miami, everyone was talking about the Snarkitecture-designed canopy entrance (which somehow managed to stay classy, despite evoking bawdy comparisons to two kinds of gender-specific organs). We also liked these funny, ghost-like lamps by the Brooklyn-based duo on view with our old friends Claire and Sam at Volume Gallery.

Two booths down, fellow American gallerist Patrick Parrish of Mondo Cane was showing work by Sight Unseen favorites RO/LU. We’ve been coveting that bookshelf on the left since it launched, but apparently we’re about $18,000 too poor for it: It sold for $19,800 to another New York dealer with impeccable taste, Paul Johnson of Johnson Trading Gallery.

Another crazy amazing RO/LU masterwork.

Speaking of Paul Johnson, as the American emeritus at the fair, he took a break from commissioning new work and instead showed a personal collection by the late artist and design picker Robert Loughlin, who painted the same brooding figure over and over again on furniture and canvas. We’re slightly obsessed with the car seat edition of this series.

Jill Singer is the co-founder of Sight Unseen, an online magazine about process and inspiration in design and the visual arts.

To read more about Art Basel click here.

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