Gigi Hadid, a Greenhouse of Luxury Mushrooms, and a Lot of Porsches—Design Miami Comes to Los Angeles

The international design fair has taken up residence at the venerable Holmby Estate.

Nick Thomm at DESIGN MIAMI.LA 2024. Photo: Charles White _ JW Pictures for Design Miami.

Under a sky that turned from gray to dazzling blue, several hundred visitors rolled up to the doors of a stunning 1930s mansion on Sunset Boulevard for the opening day of Design Miami’s first Los Angeles edition. Many of them in Porsches. It was already clear that this was to be a design fair like no other.

Inside the three properties that make up the Holmby Estate, and offer up 30,000-square-feet of internal space, 39 galleries—of which 30 have spaces in the U.S.—had filled the rooms with collectible design, most of it contemporary and much of it on the exuberant side.

an aorta-like vase in pastels with flowers emerging from its arteries painted inside with gold

Katie Stout vase. Courtesy R+Co.

With every interior inch being used, a handsome bathroom had been given to Twentieth Gallery from Hollywood, who used the vast green marble shower to display surreal sculptures by Mattia Biagi. L.A. gallery Marta was housed in a dressing room, and had arranged Jonah Takagi’s minimalist glass vases, which sell for $2,500–$6,000 in the laundry cupboard.

The greenhouse in the grounds had “It’s not the mushrooms, it’s me talking” written on its windows. Inside were organically shaped clocks, vases and fountains by Moral Turgeman and Kelsey Falter who handwork concrete over steel mesh, and finish it in soft pastel paints. “A clock costs $4,500, because I don’t work with a gallery. I sell the work myself. I want it to go to all sorts of people, not just really rich collectors, though I have a few of those,” said Turgeman who has a studio in her home in Silverlake.

a strip of earth inside a greenhouse with sculptures on it including a mushroomy blue chair and a mushroom

Raise the Moral. Photo: Simon Cardoza.

Jesse Lee, a tech entrepreneur based in Los Angeles, acquired Design Miami last September. It had previously been owned by Craig Robins, a developer and collector who launched it in the city’s then nascent Design District in 2005 and MCH, Art Basel’s parent company. Since 2020, Lee has operated an invitation-only website called Basic Space where members, who have included Diplo and the late Virgil Abloh, can trade unique or hard to find items—from fashion to cars.

“But it’s design that has become an increasingly strong category among millennials and Gen Z,” said Lee as we sat on the sprawling lawns that connect the properties. “People are spending more money on their homes. And in this collectible area of design they can find the unique. They can tell their story.” Design Miami already has fairs in Basel and Miami itself. “But this is our backyard,” said Lee. Like Basic Space, he has made the L.A. fair invitation-only. “In most fairs, people want to get in on day one,” said Lee. “But we want every day to be special.” There were, he said, a lot of celebrity names on the list.

A maximalist living room with eclectic design and a mustard yellow velvet sofa

Todd Merrill Studio at DESIGN MIAMI.LA 2024. Phoro: Charles White _ JW Photography for Design Miami.

Glamor was not in short supply on day one, or indeed the night before, when a collectors’ dinner for 150 took place on the tennis courts. Nobu Matsuhisa was in the kitchen personally preparing the caviar tacos and black cod; rapper ASAP Nas was sitting at the long table alongside Beth Rudin DeWoody, interior design royalty including Nicole Hollis, and a few members of the Pritzker family. (One is an investor in Lee’s website.) The following day, Gigi Hadid was said to be stopping by to pick up an action doll made in her likeness by the exhibitor known as Unfollowing. Ryan Murphy will be giving a talk on Sunday. He is an avid collector, as are Ellen DeGeneres, John Legend, and Brad Pitt.

some patchwork armchairs and eclectic design collectibles fille a terracotta themed living space

Salon94 at DESIGN MIAMI.LA 2024. Photo: Joshua White _ JW Photography for Design Miami.

The curatorial director of the L.A. edition is Ashlee Harrison, an art advisor and curator based in New York but with strong Los Angeles connections. “L.A. is historically a place of risk takers and innovators who embrace new ideas,” she said, as her dog Chandler sat on her lap. “People entertain in their homes, and they have space and volume. Ten years ago, collectible design was a niche thing here. Now there is a very sophisticated and active market. There are two strands: the bold contemporary works, like Darren Romanelli [on show at Friedman Benda] that links into pop culture and the music industry, and the serious historic pieces.”

Harrison had curated a section, called Podium, that offered up a design history from the 1930s to now, starting with bronze Alberto Giacometti lampstands from 1933, lent by Salon 94, and moving up to the Campana Brothers and KAWS chair made up of black teddy bears. “Travis Scott bought the pink version for Stormi,” said Harrison, referring to the Kardashian-adjacent performer and his daughter.

a silver print of a woman diana vreeland with a coy smile wearing a cowboy hat and a half moon bone necklace

Andy Warhol, Diana Vreeland. Courtesy Jim Hedges.

Among other historic and higher ticket items was a superb suite of two chairs and a table by Isamu Noguchi in galvanised steel on show at David Alhadeff’s gallery Future Perfect, which also has a base in L.A. “They’re ‘price on application’,” said Aldaheff of the pieces. (A $300,000 estimate would probably be about right.) Jim Hedges had lined a staircase with black and white Andy Warhol silver gelatin prints—from Diana Vreeland to architecture and toilets—which are unique and sell for $24,000–$36,000.

On the first floor of the main house, Emily Johnson who runs a company called 1882 in the U.K.’s ceramics heartland of Stoke-on-Trent, was standing by an exuberant lamp—a ceramic collage of a face, a foot, a trumpet and leaf-like shades on a wooden base. It was by fellow Brit Shona Heath, who won this year’s Academy Award for best production design for Poor Things. A one-off piece, it was waiting for its own Hollywood moment.

Design Miami in Los Angeles is on until 20 May 2024.

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