The word luxury conjures money and status, but the original concept of luxury has a deeper meaning. Beneath the beauty of their outward appearance, luxury products can embody the values, culture and time-honoured skills of the master artisans who create them by hand.
If we focus on the original concept of luxury, what might we notice?
• That a meticulously hand-sewn saddle with a unique double stitching is stronger than one made by a machine
• That painstakingly creating tiny gold rails 0.2mm thick allows you to fix gemstones in a setting that is virtually invisible
• That it is worth taking three weeks to decorate a single porcelain plate by painting it freehand, without a template
• Or that mastering a centuries-old enamelling technique can create a stunning three dimensional effect
This September visitors to Homo Faber in Venice will be able to witness some of the incredible skills and techniques mastered by artisans working in the European luxury sector and presented in the exhibit Discovery and Rediscovery.
Europe has long been a centre of excellence for luxury products, but in this modern world of machine-driven consumerism, the essential values of the luxury sector are sometimes forgotten or lost altogether. This exhibit puts the focus squarely back on the craftsmanship that goes into making luxury items, shining a spotlight on the human beings behind the brands – the artisans whose skills and experience bring real meaning to the concept of luxury.
Discovery and Rediscovery showcases 20 very special artisanal techniques inspired by the list of métiers d’art outlined by the French Institut National des Métiers d’Art (INMA). Each technique will be demonstrated by an artisan from a European luxury house whose history and ethos is closely linked to the skill on view. Renowned maisons and exceptional ateliers will come together in the same room in an unprecedented showcase of the extraordinary craftsmanship behind iconic products of true luxury.
Visitors will be able to interact with master artisans from each of the maisons as they work on site, making beautiful items that require skills such as crystal engraving, gem sculpting, hand weaving, Lunéville embroidery or bookbinding. Visitors will leave with a real appreciation of the care, mastery of technique, respect for materials, passion for process and sheer man hours that go into finished products of the highest quality.
“We started with traditional craftsmanship related to the world of luxury, and we tried to choose the best representative for each specific know-how,” Franco Cologni, Co-Founder of the Michelangelo Foundation, explains. “Our goal was to present both legendary, world-acknowledged houses and smaller, less well-known brands from the viewpoint of craftsmanship which is essential to their heritage. By putting the master artisans at the centre of our narrative in this space, we are saying that true luxury is more about human excellence and the refinement of skill than simply about expensive objects.”
The exhibit testifies to the high regard the luxury sector has for artisanal skills and its continuing commitment to preserving master craftsmanship for the future.
“The most innovative thing you can do in the 21st century is use your talent and passion to create something with your hands instead of copy-pasting and data-sourcing,” says Anders Thomas, CEO of Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg, one of the participating luxury houses. “The craftsmanship of European artisans results in genuine luxury products that are unique and contribute to the variety and quality of the society we live in, and this must be preserved. By bringing so many master artisans together, Homo Faber is showing the relevance of human skill at the highest level of creativity and passion.”
Discovery and Rediscovery is one of 16 exhibits that make up Homo Faber, a major new exhibition celebrating European craftsmanship, organised by the Michelangelo Foundation.
Notes for editors
Crafting a more human future
Fondazione Giorgio Cini, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Free entry upon registration at homofaberevent.com
Homo Faber is the first major cultural exhibition dedicated to the very best in European craftsmanship. Organised by the Michelangelo Foundation, it aims to put fine craftsmanship on the global map and increase recognition and visibility for master artisans. The exhibition will bring together a vast range of materials and disciplines, from jewellery to bespoke bicycles, from the rarest artisanal techniques to some of the most iconic examples of the finest European workmanship. Created by a hand-picked team of world-class designers, curators and architects, the exhibition stretches over a number of magnificent spaces throughout the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. homofaberevent.com
The Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship is an international, nonprofit institution based in Geneva, Switzerland, which celebrates and preserves master craftsmanship and strengthens its connection to the world of design. Rooted in a tradition of culture and excellence and in the realities and challenges of today’s global economy, the Foundation seeks to support men and women who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of master craftsmanship and to foster a new cultural movement built around the values that are essential for their work. The Foundation focuses on Europe as a starting point for its activities, in recognition that craftsmanship has been a vital part of the economic and cultural fabric of the region for centuries. michelangelofoundation.org
Discovery and Rediscovery
The métiers d’art, the participating luxury houses and the specific techniques they will demonstrate are as follows:
Bookbinding: Smythson (UK)
Crystal engraving: J. & L. Lobmeyr (Austria)
Cutlery making: Lorenzi Milano (Italy)
Embroidering (linen): Embroiderers from Madeira (Portugal)
Embroidering: Lesage (France)
Enamelling (grisaille enamel): Vacheron Constantin (Switzerland)
Eyewear making (bespoke spectacles): Bonnet (France)
Fabric weaving (silk): Antico Setificio Fiorentino (Italy)
Fan making: Duvelleroy (France)
Gemstone cutting (the ‘the Mystery Set™’): Van Cleef & Arpels (France)
Gemstone sculpting (glyptic art): Cartier (France)
Glassworking (decorating techniques): Venini (Italy)
Gold nib crafting: Montblanc (Germany)
Leather working: Dunhill (UK)
Perfume creating: Aquaflor (Italy)
Porcelain painting: Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg (Germany)
Saddle making: Hermès (France)
Shoemaking (Velatura on leather): Santoni (Italy)
Tapestry weaving (Aubusson tapestries): Robert Four (France)
Watchmaking: Jaeger-LeCoultre (Switzerland)