The name ‘Venice’ has always been intertwined with arts, finance and commerce. As of today, the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship is revitalising the city’s influential role in artisanal fields and craftsmanship. The San Giorgio Monastery, home to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, located opposite the historical centre of Venice, serves as a mirror to the city’s affluent collections of art and architecture in all its different forms. The numerous long corridors, open courtyards, and spacious halls host a real mix of true craftsmanship. Assembled by various curators, the exhibition is thematically organised, each focusing on the work of artisans and design from different perspectives. In order to emphasise the importance of transmitting knowledge and expertise from the current generation to the next one, a team of 100 students are fulfilling the role of young ambassadors. Selected from 26 leading European institutions focusing on applied arts and design, they are more than qualified to guide the visitors through the numerous parts of the exhibition.
Best of Europe shows its visitors a grand collection of the best examples of contemporary design, defined by old-aged traditions and techniques. Jean Blanchaert has made a selection of objects from all over Europe, asserting the regional and cultural differences of craftsmanship within Europe. Their distinctiveness creates a continuous dialogue, and celebrates the remarkable diversity within the various manifestations. The accompanying scenography by architect Stefan Boeri envisions a series of naturally shaped islands, referencing the countless small islands shaping the city of Venice.
Ceramic works ‘Sunday Basket’ and ‘Violet Cloud’ by Anne Marie Laureys at Best of Europe. © Tuur Vermeiren
Glass work by Hanna Krüger and the porcelain piece ‘Blow Away Vase’ by Front Design Group for MOOOI at Iconic Vases. © Tuur Vermeiren
The Doppia Firma (Double Signature) highlights objects that are the outcome of collaborations and partnerships between designers and craftsmen, curated by the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte in Milan. By accentuating the importance of maintaining close relationships between long-established artisanal skills and contemporary design, authentic craftsmanship can continue to flourish and endure. Examples of intriguing partnerships are the Nebbia Collection of glassware by De Allegri and Fogale (Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale) collaborating with Andrea Zilio of Anfora, and the series of hand-painted plates named Another Nature by Inma Bermúdez and Giovanni Battista Fadigati, the owner of Este Ceramiche Porcellane.
Interior view of the Doppia Firma, with the Nebbia Collection designed by Allegri and Fogale, produced by Zilio. © Michelangelo Foundation, Alessandra Chemollo
Trompe l’oeil table set ‘Fundamentals’ by Studio Swine and silver-artisan Giampolo Babetto. © Tuur Vermeiren
Visitors are invited to get in touch with craftsmen at work in Discovery and Rediscovery. To be able to interact with a varied selection of skilful artists adds depth and enrichment to the experience of their artistry. It is notable that Homo Faber not only invites craftsmen specialised in traditional fields, such as gemstone sculpting by Cartier and tapestry weaving by Robert Four, but broadens the spectrum by inviting experts in younger fields such as eyewear by Maison Bonnet and watchmaking by Jaeger-LeCoultre.
A glimpse inside the pavilion of Aubusson tapestries (Robert Four) at Discovery and Rediscovery. The artworks in wool are completely hand woven with traditional techniques, manufactured on contemporary graphic designs. © Michelangelo Foundation, Tomas Bertelsen
The Mystery Set’ by Van Cleef & Arpels, a unique technique of assembling gemstones without visible fixings. They are created by tiny gold rails of 0.2mm thick and cutting grooves into the gemstones by which they can be inserted on to rails. © Michelangelo Foundation, Tomas Bertelsen
Restoring Art’s Masters offers a glimpse into the delicate and secluded world of art restoration. Curated by Isabella Villafranca Soissons, a temporary restoration atelier with experts from Open Care is established within the grounds of the former monastery. Not only can visitors experience the timeless craftsmanship of historical and contemporary art objects in a fragile condition, but they can also look upon the skills of accomplished restoration experts during their sensitive and time-consuming work. Because of the increasing demand for maintenance of both historical and contemporary objects, the field of art restoration is faced with new challenges, continuously seeking out fresh approaches and techniques.
On the left at Creativity and Craftsmanship: Celeste Blue, a design collaboration by Piotr Sierakowski and Pola Dwurnik, produced by Andrzej Dobrowolanski & Jakub Przyborowski. On the right: Golden Cage designed by Martine Bedin and produced by Dominique Monié and Jean-Luc Cesses. © Michelangelo Foundation, Alessandra Chemollo
Interior view of the former swimming pool hosting Fashion Inside and Out, including designs by Dolce & Gabbana and Jacquemus. © Michelangelo Foundation, Alessandra Chemollo
The first edition of Homo Faber succeeds in displaying the true scope of artisanal activities and underlines the essential need to safeguard traditions within craftsmanship in Europe. To conclude with the words of Franco Cologni, co-founder of the Michelangelo Foundation: ‘If Michelangelo’s David can still take our breath away, it’s because it is imbued with human spirit and mastery. It is time for a new Renaissance, to join together and forge a dynamic cultural movement around the deep meaning and values of craftsmanship.’
Homo Faber 2018, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, until 30 September.