Alcova’s Maverick Spirit Makes a Splash in Miami

After making a name for itself in Milan, the roving design showcase continues its run as a vital incubator for young, experimental practices by bringing their work to a history-laden motel at Miami Art Week.

Alcova 2023 at the Selina Gold Dust Motel. Photography by Piergiorgio Sorgetti

Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima launched Alcova five years ago to champion emerging designers who don’t quite fit the mold of Salone del Mobile or the medley of satellite shows that pop up during Fuorisalone. What was missing during Milan Design Week, they realized, was a platform for young practices wielding an experimental edge in what can be perceived as a slow-moving profession—a cross-section of new talents translating fresh ideas into one-of-a-kind collectible objects and innovative research. That, and unexpected settings like a derelict abattoir and military hospital to showcase the work. As the fair grew in scope, ambition, and acclaim, Ciuffi and Grima toyed with the idea of taking it elsewhere.

“We were looking for a place with a strong connection to design and an established audience,” Grima tells Surface. The duo brought this alchemy to the Magic City, where Alcova’s latest edition promises to be one of Miami Art Week’s buzziest places to experience new design. “We love Miami,” Grima says. “It has a strong identity of its own, much like Milan, and is attached to an idea of a certain lifestyle.” Few settings embody Miami’s sense of neon-hued hedonism better than Biscayne Boulevard’s iconic Selina Gold Dust Motel, a midcentury MiMo gem that looks plucked from an Ed Ruscha painting. Newly reborn as a boutique hotel, its location across from the old Playboy Club made it a popular hangout spot among the Rat Pack in the ‘60s.

Alcova founders Joseph Grima nad Valentina Ciuffi. Photography by Delfino Sisto Legnani

The history-laden hotel—and the work within its rooms—promise a wild ride through fresh ideas percolating within design. “People who come here for art fairs are looking for inspiration and situations that will trigger their imagination and expose them to new work,” Grima tells Surface. “We feel design is moving very quickly. Alcova has always been interested in the bleeding edge of design—this is something we can contribute to Art Week here.”

Among this year’s highlights is Alcova Project Space, where talents like Stefania Ruggiero and Ryan Decker plumb the depths of “digital ornamentalism” and translate its fluid forms into pottery and wooden stools. Solo presentations by the sustainable furniture purveyor Kalon Studios, the exuberant painter Kika Karolina Niemczyk, and material master Bonnie Hvillum speak to the show’s reach. “Uncharted” asked six artists (Wallpaper Projects, Sam Klemick, and Caleb Ferris among them) to explore the unfamiliar by implementing novel creative processes into their practices and presenting the results. It’s an apt metaphor for a rare adventurous show whose freethinking spirit promises something new.

Objects by Caleb Ferris, Forma Rosa Studio, and Sam Klemick at “Uncharted”
(FROM LEFT) Coffee Table by Bieke Casteleyn. Mudlark Lamp by Ryan Decker
Moodlum by Dean Norton. Rendering by Alexis Christodoulou

Alcova will be on view at the Selina Gold Dust Motel (7700 Biscayne Blvd) until Dec. 10.

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