SA Design Heads To Miami

INTERVIEWED BY Mary Garner


Southern Guild will be taking a curated selection of South African design to Design Miami 2017, taking place from 6 – 10 December.

The gallery will be taking the work of Madoda Fani, Justine Mahoney, Adam Birch, Paco Pakdoust, Andile Dyalvane, Trevor Potter, Charles Haupt, David Krynauw, Otto du Plessis, Dokter and Misses, Jan Bekker, Porky Hefer, Meyer von Wielligh, Jesse Ede and John Vogel.

In this Q&A with Trevyn McGowan, co-founder of The GUILD Group, she talks to us about the feverish international interest in local art and design and what it means to be at Design Miami.

How do you think the voice of the African continent is currently being received and perceived in the international design world?

In the 15 years that we have been working with African design in a global context, I have been aware that the focus on Africa has steadily intensified. Interest in our product and inspiration drawn from our aesthetic, stories and cultures appear across many industries and an African sensibility permeates countless trends. Our exports of design pieces has also grown steadily with a significant number of new private and commercial clients each year. I think that the opening of Zeitz MOCAA, and the establishment of the Silo District by the V&A Waterfront, is one of the most important developments in bringing international attention to the continent.

In your opinion, why is the work of artist-designers and their free expression so important to the authenticity of creativity in the art and design industries?

Designers have to be groundbreaking, they have to have a unique viewpoint and a distinct voice and they have to have their own, specific narrative. As Africans, we can’t emulate design from other parts of the world, it isn’t at all interesting. We have such a unique and authentic starting point that this is what we need to draw on. One of our biggest focuses as curators is encouraging designers to forge their own paths, to study what the rest of the world is producing, and in doing so ensure that their perspective is fresh.

Since the founding of Southern Guild in 2008 how far would you say you and Julian are in accomplishing the vision you set out achieve?

No matter how much ground you cover there is always so much more to achieve, but I can say we are immensely proud of how far our industry has come. The quality of the production, the vision of the work and the confidence of both our established design heroes and younger, emerging stars is incredibly gratifying. We provided a platform and a framework and the designers rose magnificently to the challenge and opportunity. You only have to look at how far the work has come in the 10 years since we started and how our customer base is now split 50/50 local and international as South Africans begin to understand the category and the value of investment purchasing. We still have a huge amount that we want to do and you have to keep pushing in new directions. The plans for next year include participating at several new fairs, gallery partnership projects and developing new designers from different disciplines. We are also so happy in our new GUILD gallery space, which allows for so many more projects than before.

Do any of the pieces in the curated collection that you’re taking to Design Miami 2017 tell a particular story that resonates with you personally?

We are very connected with all of the work for Miami and of course finishing the year with what, for us, is the best fair in the world gives us a great opportunity to select the most important work from the year. A highlight is always what Porky Hefer produces – this year it is a sublime leather Toucan hanging seat (a collaborative piece with Woodheads) – we have sold his pieces to some of the most important collectors around the world from the fair, including the National Gallery of Victoria, a leading design museum. We are also extremely excited about showing seven of Andile Dyalvane’s works from his recent solo at GUILD Silo, Indladla. Andile has a very strong collector base in the US, including a top gallery we collaborate with, Friedman Benda. Meyer von Wielligh has produced an extraordinary large-scale, carved timber table and sideboard inspired by lightning strikes. In all, we will show over 30 pieces in our biggest selection to date.

5. What do you hope to take away from the Design Miami 2017 experience and bring back to SA and Southern Guild specifically?

Miami, during the art and design fairs, is the absolute highlight of our year. The city is so stimulating over this time with dozens of art fairs, performances, pop-ups and events, that you can’t look in any direction without being assaulted with stimulation and inspiration. We connect with our colleagues in the industry, including other global galleries, designers we have developed close friendships with [sic] like the Haas Brothers and Misha Khan, and we work with our partner galleries like R and Company on our collaborations for the coming year.

We learn so much as we spend seven days viewing the most important design in the world from the other 33 galleries that participate. Most importantly, we re-establish our own confidence in our work and our path, as the sales at the fair for South African design are always so strong. Starting every day in a warm turquoise sea and finishing it at a super hot party doesn’t hurt either.

For more information about GUILD, visit theguildgroup.co.za.