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Art Basel/Miami Beach 2006 sees the breakdown of the binary between functional and ornamental

There has has been talk of an unusually high proportion of sales, particularly of design pieces

Five years ago, there was only a sprinkling of design among Art Basel/Miami Beach’s vast selection of contemporary art: this year tabletop objects by Picasso and other contemporary ceramics and furniture by many artists are all over the fair.

“There is a blurring of boundaries, with functional objects crafted by artists growing in prominence just as photography did ten years ago,” says Steve Wilson, who with his wife Laura Lee Brown, the Brown Forman heiress, was shopping for their substantial collection of contemporary art, 21 C Foundation, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Having filled their Louisville 21 C Hotel with acquisitions, they are now planning to do the same in Texas.

Some dealers are reporting record sales. New York-based Paul Kasmin (J16) sold close to 20 chairs and tables by the French couple Claude and Francois Lalanne at prices from $30,000-$350,000. “It’s functional sculpture,” says Mr Kasmin. At Brooke Alexander and Mai 36 Galerie (both F15), a Franz West sofa and Richard Artschwager chairs upholstered in cow hide were snapped up immediately. An East Coast museum reserved Thai American artist Rirkrit Tiravanija’s installation of stainless steel flooring, a book case and a picnic table with two benches along with a Plexiglas mural for $150,000 with the Berlin gallery Neugerrienschneider (F10). “The piece is not so much about furniture, but the Utopian design of the 1970s. It is a social stage,” says Nathan Peter, the gallery assistant.

Meanwhile, another collector snared a Picasso chased silver centre piece with fish decoration for $120,000 from the Paris dealer Hopkins Custot (J11). The piece had been designed by the artist and commissioned from silversmith François Hugo. The Munich gallerists Sprüth Magers (C12) are holding a Peter Fischli and David Weiss 2005 coffee table, made of cast black rubber, for $250,000.

NY dealer turns to contemporary design

New York gallery Barry Friedman completes its shift from traditional to contemporary art and design with the opening of an 18,000 sq. ft gallery in Chelsea this autumn.

The head of this new venture will be Marc Benda (right), a 30 year old Zurich native, with Mr Friedman (left), best known for his early forays into Wiener Werkstatte.

Located at 515 West 26th Street, the new gallery Friedman & Benda will be the first ground floor entity devoted heavily to design in the entire 300 gallery strong neighbourhood. The renovation has cost $2m. “When we saw the success of Design ’05, we realised we could reach four times that audience if based in downtown New York,” says Mr Benda.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper Art Basel Miami Beach Daily as 'Artists blur boundaries at Art Basel/Miami Beach'