Design Miami/ gears up for its 17th edition under new curatorial director Wava Carpenter

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Design Miami/ gears up for its 17th edition under new curatorial director Wava Carpenter

Design Miami/’s flagship fair pictured in 2019. (Courtesy Design Miami/)

With a special and successful September-instead-of-June edition of its annual Swiss sister show now officially in the bag, Design Miami/ is setting its sights back on its home turf of Miami Beach. After taking a pandemic-prompted hiatus last year due, the 17th annual edition of the international design fair, which is held in parallel with Art Basel Miami Beach, is kicking off on December 1. An invite-only preview day will be held November 30.

The theme of the Design Miami/ 2021 is Human Kind, which spotlights “design-led visions for a more equitable and interconnected future” per fair organizers.

Running through December 5 at Pride Park opposite the Miami Beach Convention Center, this is the first edition of Design Miami/ to be held under incoming curatorial director Wava Carpenter. Carpenter’s appointment was announced in April after it was revealed that Shanghai-based Aric Chen, the inaugural curatorial director of Design Miami/ since 2019, would be departing to serve as general and artistic director of Het Nieuwe Instituut, a cultural center in Rotterdam focused on architecture and design. Before joining Design Miami/, Chen, who curated the fair’s September edition in Basel, was lead curator of M+ in Hong Kong. A massive landmark museum dedicated to contemporary visual culture, M+ will finally, following a series of seemingly never-ending postponements, open its Herzog & de Meuron-designed physical doors in the West Kowloon Cultural district next month.

portrait of design specialist wava carpenter
Wava Carpenter (Karli Evans)

Carpenter is a seasoned veteran of Design Miami/, having most recently served as a curatorial advisor for the fair. From 2006 through 2010, she held numerous leadership positions with Design Miami/ including Director of Culture and Content, associate director, and acting director before taking on a consulting curatorial role in 2011. Carpenter holds an MA in Design History from Parsons School of Design, where she has also taught critical theory, and is cofounder of Anava Projects, a curatorial agency supporting “design for good.” Carpenter has spearheaded several purpose-driven initiatives for Design/Miami in the past including the Architects for Beirut fundraising campaign, which was activated in the weeks following the devastating August 2020 explosion that leveled large swaths of the Lebanese capital city.

“I have always been interested in how we can use design to help create a better future and I’m excited to be able to do more of this in my role as Curatorial Director of Design Miami/,” said Carpenter. “While December will be a time to celebrate being together again in Miami with our wonderful galleries and partners, it is also an opportune time to reflect on some of the social and environmental issues that have been highlighted over the past 2 years such as the lack of diversity in design. We have an opportunity to use the incredible platform that is Design Miami/ to hopefully start some conversations around these issues.”

Tickets for Design Miami/ will go on sale later this month. Like the 2021 edition of Design Miami/Basel, Design/Miami will be held as a hybrid event and include a robust virtual component in addition to the returning in-person event at Pride Park. What’s more, Design Miami/ also recently announced a three-year partnership with Msheireb Properties to bring Design Miami/ to Doha, Qatar, beginning in spring 2022.

As for Art Basel Miami Beach, which is returning to the Miami Beach Convention Center for its first in-person fair since 2019, it runs through December 2 through December 4, preceded by two full VIP-only preview days. A full list of all 254 participating exhibitors, including 43 galleries showing for the first time at the buzzy international contemporary art fair, was revealed earlier this week.

Design Miami/ was first launched in 2005 as Design.05. The following year, the fair changed its name and held its first Basel edition to coincide with Art Basel, which was established in 1970 in Switzerland’s third-most populous city. Art Basel launched its annual Miami Beach edition in 2002, just three years ahead of Design Miami/ hitting the scene.