The Michelangelo Foundation Presents
The Michelangelo Foundation Presents
Previous Next September 26, 2018

Johann Rupert's Inaugural Speech

September 26, 2018

Thank you President Giovanni Bazoli, President of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and Mr Brugnaro, Mayor of Venice. Mr and Mrs Meyers of the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, thank you very, very much for your support, and Mr Boeri, President of the Triennale di Milano, grazie. And, of course, thank you to my old friend Dr Franco Cologni.
Thanks also go to the European Parliament for their patronage, and most especially to our four main partners: the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, the Triennale Design Museum and the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte.

Thank you also to all the curators, artisans and designers who have collaborated to create the amazing content of this exhibition, and thank you to the hundreds of people who’ve worked here on site for the set up and staging of the exhibition.

The motto here is ‘ora et labora’, which means think and pray… and work. What happened is: Franco and I prayed like crazy, for years, that this thing would finally get off the ground. And then other people worked like crazy. So thank you to those who worked as well, to all the collaborators, for making this a success. We are also, especially and finally, thankful for the weather, because that was a big worry.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the inaugural edition of Homo Faber, crafting a more human future.

The exhibition you are about to visit has been created to shine a light on some of the finest craftsmanship in Europe. We wanted to do this in order to recognise the talented women and men who are at the heart of a very particular blend of creativity and craftsmanship that the Michelangelo Foundation champions. Their work represents the values that constitute an abiding heritage which is, in and of itself, worth our time and attention.

These values are far too many to list but I will mention two in particular that we hold dear: excellence and originality. Both of these capture the essence of master craftsmanship which takes years and years to attain and which is always – and refreshingly – personal and unique. Homo Faber is a showcase of excellence of originality, a showcase of culture and of taste, and of the remarkable talent that exists throughout Europe. It is our intention to hold this talent up for everyone to see, to bolster it, to nurture it and – most importantly – to connect it to a globalised marketplace. In this way, we aim to honour the work of the artisans, to give something back to them, and to ensure a viable future for fine craftsmanship.

Now the first time we really thought about this was around 2010, because some of us had predicted the financial crisis in 2008 which has devastated the world. But after that, I warned our colleagues that should the governments and central banks globally depress interest rates, repress savers, the good people in society would have their savings wiped out, zero interest rates on savings, and sooner or later they will find out that they were taken advantage of by speculators that never went to jail.

So, we’ve had a decade of very low interest rates, of people’s savings now neutralised, and in fact the good people in society find out they saved and the speculators never went to jail. I foresaw that we would see more anti-Semitism, that there would be a fracturing of the social fabric – this was predictable. And what have we got today? We’ve got Brexit, we’ve got President Trump, and we have a surge in nationalism. As we speak, there are 300,000 Russian troops in a joint military exercise with China. So, it has happened: we do have a tearing of our social fabric; people are less tolerant.

The next problem we will face is artificial intelligence combined with robotics and this will be introduced in many areas in manufacturing. That means that more people will lose their jobs, and there will be more social conflict. So, where can we still compete with machines and where can we in Europe compete best? Culture, taste, fine craftsmanship. This means we really need to connect the artisans and the master artisans – these true heroes – with potential buyers globally. This will be possible because in a few years’ time we will have a very efficient electronic global marketplace.

If you take all the human beings that have every lived and are alive today – there are more humans alive today than have ever lived in the past – so, let’s say 7.5 billion people – and if you squeeze us all together like sardines, and you put us in a cube, we would all fit into a cube of 1.5 kilometres by 1.5 kilometres by 1.5 kilometresm. That’s it. And yet we’ve taken two-thirds of the world’s natural resources, or more. Almost 100% of all plastic – one way or another – lies in dumps or winds up in our oceans.

We really have to ask ourselves: are we the most superior beings on earth when we behave like that?

What we are trying to do by creating Homo Faber is a small bit, to try and preserve the skills that can be handed down through generations and not be lost. It’s just a start. It is going to take time. But I want to thank the believers here on the island, the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, and all those people who believe in this project. Because I really believe that it’s an idea that matches the moment, and idea whose time has come, whose time is now.

Homo faber is a human being who is in charge of his or her own destiny. In a world as complex and interconnected as the one we live in today, the destiny of fine craftsmanship is in our hands. In welcoming you to this exhibit, I invite you to reconsider the place of all that’s handmade, to reconsider the inherent and explicit value of it, and to join us in our movement of creating together – even if it might be against all odds – a future that is more human.

I would finally like to thank again all of those who have understood and believed in our vision and who have contributed to this first edition. Our intention is to make Homo Faber a biennial event so we hope to see you here for the second edition in 2020. Thank you very much.

Johann Rupert