If the modern nostalgia of Shanghai’s Bund derives from being the site where the contemporary cultures of China and the world first intermingled, what better place for Design Miami’s Mainland arrival than a late-19th century building whose name translates as “the Bund’s origin”?
When Shanghai Art Week descends on the city in early November, Wai Tan Yuan (外滩源), the resplendently restored former British consulate, will backdrop the event’s newest face: Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai, a show staging collectibles from global galleries and designers — and yes, everything is for sale.
Pared down in size, scaled-up in curation, Podium is the new design vessel from the team that’s been luring aesthetically-minded audiences to Miami Beach and Basel over the past 15 years. It’s been conceived as a traveling event destined to touch down in international design capitals and having made a debut in Miami in late-2020, it’s arriving in a city that has been on the radar ever since sister fair, Art Basel, first charmed Hong Kong in 2013.
“Shanghai’s rapid growth has meant a boom in design and architecture,” says Jennifer Roberts, CEO of Design Miami, “but this is the first time a collectible design exhibition of this calibre is coming to Shanghai. It’s a platform connecting international and local design, one celebrating China’s unique design sensibilities.”
Design Miami’s outgoing Curatorial Director Aric Chen is in charge and together with local art consultancy, Made In House, is striving to balance design work of global resonance with Chinese tastes. The key, Chen notes, is to present “important historical 20th century work” and steer clear of cliched assumptions about Chinese preferences. “In the end,” Chen notes, “like everyone else, Chinese collectors simply want to see good stuff.”
Visitors who discover “good stuff” worthy of purchasing can do so onsite or online, a digital emphasis that extends throughout Podium’s programming. This includes making tours, talks, and designer spotlights available online with organizers leaning into a brand new WeChat account to connect with Chinese audiences.
These audiences are six months into enjoying the full-bodied return of China’s art event circuit on the back of successful relaunches of ART021 in Shanghai, JINGART in Beijing, and Macau’s four-month Biennale. Even still, Podium is drawing lessons from its experience of playing host in the midst of a pandemic.
Most straightforwardly, this entails expanding the aforementioned digital side of the event, tightening coordination with participating businesses, galleries, and collectors, and extending the runtime to 10 days (the Shanghai show will span from November 4 to 14).
“Even with the obstacles, we saw strong attendance and engagement across physical and digital realms,” Roberts says. “People will always crave culture and this is the value in taking Podium on the road to new markets around the world.”
Shanghai is ready and waiting.