It’s an exciting place to be, and The savviest collectors are rushing In to snap up these inventive new works that blend conceptual ideas with practical appeal. Conrad Magazine explores the most esteemed galleries showcasing the most innovative concepts in the field.
Ten years ago, a major new art fair opened in Miami offering collectors a whole new category of object for their delight. Design Miami (running alongside Art Basel Miami Beach: the groovy American younger sibling to the world’s premier modern and contemporary art fair in Switzerland: Art Basel), presented furniture and decorative objects as ambitious expressions of an artist’s imagination. Each piece was distinctive and exceptional. Some were vintage pieces by pioneering modernists; others were contemporary one-offs or from a limited edition. The point was that each was intended to stand out in a collector’s home. Rather than defining design as a mere adjunct of interior decoration, this new fair offered design as sculpture.

Black Leather Teddy Bear Sofa
Campana Brother

Organizing a whole fair around this category was a trailblazing idea but the concept of ‘Design Art’ (as this genre was initially tagged) was not new. American modernists of the studio movement began making their inventive pieces in the 1960s and 70s. Even Marc Newson, pin-up boy of contemporary design (and co-designer of this year’s Apple watch), hand-welded his iconic aluminum and fiberglass Lockheed Lounge as long ago as 1986. But it was in the mid-noughties that the market for these pieces really took off. The turning point came in 2009, when Newson’s Lounge fetched a staggering $1.7m at auction, signaling serious collector interest.

Today, you have only to enter the lobby of a contemporary hotel or visit the home of a modern art collector to encounter these arresting hybrid objects. Design Miami, has become a fixture in the calendars of a rising group of collectors who value their furniture as highly as their art, welcoming 36,000 visitors last December.

And for these determinedly individual collectors, the pieces they own express their own idiosyncratic vision as surely as the paintings and sculptures they own. There is nothing timid about contemporary collectors’ taste—so the wit and ingenuity of much design art appeals to their own sense of adventure, and as the market continues to grow, it seems there need be no limit to the artists’ invention …

Notable names on the contemporary scene include leading British designer Max Lamb, who has experimented most recently with the Japanese lacquer technique to create furniture of startlingly bright, patched color, and Irishman Joseph Walsh, who creates romantic beds and dramatic tables from sensuously curved pale ash that astonish with their technical bravura. In a different mood, there are the Brazilian Campana brothers whose exuberant sofas and armchairs are created from materials as unexpected as stuffed animals, or the unsettling bestial furniture, complete with animal horns, of the LA-born Haas brothers, Nikolai and Simon.


Urushi Coffee Table
Max Lamb


Split Chair Light Brown
Alex Hull


Wolffish Stool


Lockheed Lounge
Marc Newson

The virtual world has become an increasingly significant marketplace for collectible design. Ambra Medda’s stylish website L’ArcoBaleno offers one edited pick of the most exciting contemporary design, while Artspace and Artsy offer a more focused perspective on the leading designers, art fairs, gallery exhibitions, and auctions. As Alex Gilbert, design specialist at Artsy, puts it, “Design and art are naturally complementary given that they live together in our interior spaces.”

Design has been a category on their website from early on, but has become a serious focus since 2012, and, Gilbert adds, when it comes to translating enquiries into sales, “the category of design has one of the highest rates of conversion.” Since their overall monthly enquiries have increased ten-fold since October 2013, this suggests that, as collectors grow more confident about buying art online, so design may find its way across the world increasingly via the web.

So whether you choose the curvilinear work of Zaha Hadid, the floating lagoon on legs by Vincent Dubourg or the curious objects of Dutch collective Formafantasma, (and wherever in the world these creations originate), you can easily bring this thrilling fusion of the conceptual and the practical into your home.


Digital Conrad Concierge and Complimentary Wi-Fi* when you book at conradhotels.com
*Standard Wi-Fi is free. Premium (if available) has a fee. Not free at properties with a resort charge