Design Miami: Africa Takes the Spotlight

For the past few years, I’ve joined the art-and-design-loving hordes for the annual December pilgrimage to Miami Beach for Art Basel and Design Miami. With the promise of masterpieces from the worlds of contemporary art and design, the side-by-side fairs attract a global audience, who never tire of the smorgasbord of talent (nor the plethora of parties).

While you can expect to see works from the top-tier galleries of America, Europe and, increasingly, Asia, I was thrilled to see Africa gain the stage with a particularly noteworthy presence at this year’s Design Miami.

It all began with architect David Adjaye being named as the fair’s Designer of the Year, a prestigious recognition for a body of outstanding work that expands the boundaries of design. Born inTanzania to Ghanaian parents, Adjaye has achieved worldwide acclaim for designing structures that foster community, use novel materials, and interweave connections between architecture, design and art.

As a fitting example of this talent, he designed a stunning temporary structure at the entrance to the fair (pictured above) that was equal parts monumental sculpture, functional gathering space and mesmerizing design study. Clearly influenced by the ten years he spent traveling throughout Africa to document the continent’s huge diversity of architecture, Adjaye is now turning his attention to the design of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Culture and History on the Washington Mall.

As if Adjaye’s presence wasn’t enough of a treat, my Africa fix was further fed by meeting South African exhibitors, Julian and Trevyn McGowan. This dynamic husband and wife team are the founders of Southern Guild, a collective that harnesses the energy of South Africa’s top design talents and brings their exquisite works to a global audience. I was blown away by the beauty and ingenuity of the artists they represent, all of whom are at the forefront of defining modern African design.


Click here to view Southern Guide Catalogue

Great design is always a function of marrying respect for tradition with fresh perspective. This year’s Design Miami shined a light on just such talents in Africa, and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world starts to recognize the same.

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