The Michelangelo Foundation Presents
The Michelangelo Foundation Presents
Previous Next July 30, 2018

The fine line between art and craftsmanship

July 30, 2018

The senators of ancient Rome were accustomed to wearing a very simple robe, albeit a precious one, with a red line close to the hem: this was not too showy a sign, yet it was sufficient to identify Senators as the “chosen ones”, those who are on another level. This idea that distinction and difference are often a question of fine or blurred lines, narrow divides, is associated with a concept of elegance and beauty that has nothing to do with ostentation: rather, it is an evolved cultural and aesthetic approach that associates concepts such as ‘beautiful’ with ideas of originality, distinction, election and rarity.

The distinction between art and craftsmanship is often placed along this same fine line. All the objects on display at Homo Faber: Crafting a more human future pose the question to visitors as to whether they belong to one field or the other. Decorative arts or applied arts, a free creative expression or a wise reflection on the potential of the material… these objects make their powerful voices heard and reflect the hands, gestures and minds of those who have shaped them.

The divide is narrow, of course: but it does exist. Visitors are called upon to ask questions, but not to be confused: at Homo Faber some of the greatest artisans in Europe will be present, people who in fact define themselves as ‘artisans’ (not artists) and associate a decorative or functional aim with their works, in addition to a symbolic or aesthetic one.

The aim of Homo Faber is to promote and protect the work of these makers of marvels, who are often hard to find because they are rather unaccustomed to mass communication. As curator Jean Blanchaert has reminded us, we can visualise the image of an aeroplane that is about to plunge downwards, but thanks to a skilled and brave movement by the pilot, who regains control of the joystick, the plane succeeds in flying again. This is exactly what Homo Faber proposes to do: to make these works ‘soar upwards’ again, contributing to saving them from the risk of disappearance that sometimes seems tangible.

Visitors are called upon to be the protagonists of this ‘flying manoeuvre’: it is they, in fact, not us, who can and must reverse the downward trajectory. We want them to feel not only full of admiration for the beauty of the techniques and objects, but also part of an important cultural movement. Like the thin red line of the Roman Senators, the line that divides the excellent from the everyday becomes a sign of distinction marking out those who believe there will always be something that people’s hands will know how to do better than any machine.

Franco Cologni