Centuries of cultural ties between Japan and Europe have inspired some of the programming from Homo Faber, a biannual exhibition of contemporary artisans, scheduled to run from April 10 to May 1 in Venice.
The Japanese tradition of awarding selected craftsmen the title of National Living Treasure particularly impressed the event coordinators at the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship, a Geneva-based non-profit organization founded in 2016 by Johann Rupert, president of the luxury group Richemont, and Franco Cologni, the Italian entrepreneur, author and former president of Cartier International.
“That was an eye-opener for us,” says Alberto Cavalli, director of the foundation and general curator of Homo Faber. “Every country should make it a point to seek out and recognize these types of artisans as treasures.”
It was something he kept in mind when planning the event in conjunction with the Japan Foundation.
“As a curator,” he said, “I wanted to move from simply recognizing beauty to a deeper understanding of what makes sense.”
Objects made by 12 of those honored craftsmen have been selected to be exhibited in a stone garden in the Palladian refectory in Fondazione Giorgio Cini, the main venue of the biennale. They include items made with lacquer from the urushi tree; kasuri, fabric woven from fibers that have been dyed to create patterns; and dolls made with toso, a mixture of paulownia sawdust and paste, applied to a core of paulownia wood. Organizers had hoped that some craftsmen would travel to Venice, but it was unclear as of mid-March if anyone would be able to attend.
Related presentations include stage design designed by Robert Wilson for his version of “Madama Butterfly”; Registrations will be made for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and a free ikebana workshop offered.
The first edition of Homo Faber, which lasted 16 days in September 2018, attracted 62,500 visitors to the foundation complex on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, organizers said. The pandemic forced the postponement of this second edition, which was planned for 2020, to this year.
In addition to extending the event to three weeks and focusing on sustainable techniques from leatherworking to textiles and objects made from seaweed, for the first time the organizers are inviting visitors to take self-guided tours of the city to see artisans working in their own homes. surroundings. More than 60 studios and galleries are planning to participate.
In the Cini complex, art students from all over Europe are on hand to guide visitors through 15 exhibitions representing the work of more than 350 artisans and designers from 38 countries. Adult tickets cost 10 euros ($10.95) for one day and 18 euros for two days if purchased online in advance; reservations are encouraged as pandemic restrictions limit the venue to no more than 3,000 people per day.
“Over the past four years, we understood that to be a cultural movement we needed to bring the maestros together with a new generation of craftsmen, designers, architects and maybe even clients,” said Mr. cavalli. So the Next of Europe gallery aims to highlight works by young artisans, including King Houndekpinkou, a French ceramics artist exploring the connection between Benin and Japan; Vanessa Barragão, a Portuguese tapestry weaver who works with recycled textiles; and Mauro Lorenzi, member of the third generation of Lorenzi Milano, a company specializing in handcrafting objects from natural materials such as bamboo, horn and mother-of-pearl.
A rehabilitated school building within the complex, restored and reopened for this event, will be the venue for an exhibition curated by Judith Clark on craftsmanship in 15 luxury homes, including Hermès, A. Lange & Söhne, Buccellati and Lemarié.
In addition, a deconsecrated chapel that has not welcomed the public for decades is to become a laboratory for paper crafts and related arts such as calligraphy. Mr Cavalli called the theme of the room a metaphor for the vulnerability and resilience of the host city and, by extension, humanity. “A generation ago, the future looked promising. For this generation, the future looks like a threat,” he said.
“It’s not for me to say whether craft can heal the world, but we certainly believe that craft can change young people’s perspective on their lives,” he added. “As ambitious as it may sound, we believe that the ability of craft, to turn a dream into something unique and meaningful, is the only sustainable future.”