Loewe Craft Prize 2017: Tracing the Line Between Art and Craft
What separates art and craft? It’s a line that is almost deliberately blurred in the Loewe Craft Prize, the Loewe Foundation’s award for artisans and craftsmen.
Launched last year by creative director J.W. Anderson, the prize is designed to “acknowledge the importance of craft in today’s culture, and recognize working artisans whose talent, vision, and will to innovate will set a standard for the future,” according to the brand. Open to entrants around the world from disciplines as far ranging as woodwork, textiles and ceramics, this year the panel received 4,000 entrants from over 75 different countries. 26 of them were selected to become part of a moving exhibition that was previously at Madrid’s COAM, and was on at Chamber Gallery in New York until June 6 (the exhibition will continue to Paris in September, Tokyo in November, and London in February 2018).
There are some truly breathtaking entries, from trophy winner Ernst Gamperl’s oversized oak vase, crafted by the German woodturner from a 300-year-old tree that fell during the storm, to the Belgian artist Sylvie Vandenhoucke’s ‘Converging Line’, where miniature panels of textured glass, cast in the pâte de verre technique, are layered for a two-toned piece that evokes the contemplative introspection of a rainy day. Danish goldsmith Kim Buck’s gold signet rings come from his Puffed Up series, which tells you everything you need to know: welded from lightweight 999.9 karat gold, the rings are inflated with hot air to resemble ultra-luxurious balloons that will slowly deflate, as a metaphor for the risks of ego.
Indeed, if the idea of a craft prize conjures up images of square quilts and homemade pom poms, then you’ll need to think again; the closest thing to any bedspread here is a luxurious, detail-saturated tapestry of rainforest birds and a dog by Argentinean duo Chiachio & Giannone. Whimsical and colorful, the piece is a testament to the delights of needlework, and the humor it can convey. And in the hands of Mexican family collective Artesnías Panikua, humble wheat fiber is woven into an intricate tribute to the indigenous Purépecha sun deity, and was awarded a special mention from the jury for its ability to “arouse feelings before one begins to [even] rationalize it.”
Unlike art, which can at times feel like it belongs in a rarefied world that’s disconnected from the realities of life, craft connects to heritage and tradition. As Anderson puts it, “Craft is always going to be modern. It is about creating objects that have a formula of their own and speak their own language, creating a dialogue that didn't exist before. It is about newness as much as it is about tradition."
Head image: Lauren Coleman (Chamber Gallery)