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Homo Faber in Venice: the first major anti-nostalgia exhibition on art crafts in Europe

It is not easy to talk about craftsmanship without giving in to nostalgia. Yet Homo Faber (at the Cini Foundation in Venice until September 30th) manages to do so by staging an exhibition in which the beauty of artifacts amazes less than the contemporary relevance of the craftmanship that brings them to life. Hence Homo Faber becomes the manifesto of a new culture of European know-how. In which technology serves man and not viceversa. And where talent, dexterity and experimentation create a widespread economic and social value. Designed to withstand the arrival of artificial intelligence.

Like all intelligent exhibitions, Homo Faber has multiple levels of reading. The first is that of amazement. Wandering through its 18 rooms and getting lost among the 900 artifacts is easy. Just stop by the details, talk to the artisans or enter the ateliers thanks to virtual reality and you will be simply amazed.


The second level of reading is that of knowlegde. Because we probably all imagine that art masters collaborate with fashion houses to create daring and dainty details. But how many know that they work also in the restoration laboratories? And in automotive workshops? How many imagine that trendy bars in Paris or Milan would not exist without craftsmen? Or that many contemporary design furniture – precisely the most futuristic ones – arise when a designer meets an artisan?

These two points of view alone would be enough to make Homo Faber an exhibition worth seeing.

But there is a third level of reading that must be kept in mind when crossing the courtyards and cloisters of the Cini Foundation. That of the vision and of the shift in the point of view on art crafts.

Fashion Inside and Out by Judith Clark. Photo Laura Traldi

Because Homo Faber urges us to see art crafts as an antidote to rampant ignorance and superficiality. And as a driving force towards a new European unity in the name of the dignity of work.

As a matter of fact, Homo Faber presents is a Europe where preparation, study and passion count. In which technology is embraced (and is dominated rather than suffered). Where learning is continuous and feeds on curiosity, proceeding in small steps without ever stopping.


This is a cultured and refined Europe but not a snob one. Because it is creative but holds its feet solidly on the ground and proudly gets its hands dirty. It’s a world that has no time for volatile tendencies and globalisms but where it is “the different that makes you fall in love”. What is found at the Cini Foundation is therefore a Europe that showcases its local soul: one that is rich, however, thanks to its global look.

In the world of arts and crafts there are no barriers

In fact in the world of art crafts there are no barriers: neither generational, nor social, nor of geographic origin. What matters is only talent. It is talent that produces “the difference” between an object made by any machine and one produced with wisdom, slowness, love by a human being. This is why the price does not count in the world of art crafts. It is not snobbery. But a proud claim for the added value of human labor – whether it is carried on with by hand or through machines.

Creativity and Craftsmanship, curated by Michele De Lucchi. Photo Alessandra Chemollo

It is in this capacity to produce a qualitative difference that Europe has much to teach the world. And it is wonderful that to see the real value of this continental atelier fed on knowledge, know-how and creativity finally recognized.

Best of – the best of Homo Faber, a personal selection

I particularly appreciated the rooms/exhibitions that unequivocally tell the contemporary vocation of craftsmanship. Here they are.

Imaginary Architecture, by India Mahdavi. The most contemporary room, which undoubtedly shows how the most avant-garde interior design would not exist without the art professions.

Workshop Exclusives, by Stefano Micelli. Craftwork where you least expect it. With motorcycles decorated by hand or with digital instruments, ultralight helicopters, plastic injection-moulded electric bicycles with automatic transmission.

Restoring Art’s Masters, curated by Isabella Villafranca Soisson. The world of artistic restoration, from Gaetano Pesce to Veronese. On this universe, read also here.

Workshop Exclusives, curated by Stefano Micelli. Photo Alessandra Chemollo

The most beautiful installation

The location has undoubtedly contributed to the success of Fashion Inside and Out, edited by Judith Clark. Because it is not often possible to observe twenty years of daring fashion in a former swimming pool transformed into a path, suspended between diving boards and huge empty spaces. But after the initial amazement, spend some time looking at the pieces. A clear show of how craft is avant-garde and not regret.

To enter the world of art crafts

It takes time to see Singular Talents, by the Michelangelo Foundation. But the “dynamic” portraits of 12 rare art crafts from all over Europe are splendid. A series of video installations and virtual reality in fact bring the visitor in unique ateliers, and to meet many young people in love with almost disappeared professions.

Pour l’intelligence de la main, edited by Alain Lardet. The exhibition on the artisans who won the Bettancourt Schueller Foundation prize, is accompanied by an immersive experience in virtual reality. which allows you to observe the places where artists work and draw inspiration.

Discovery and Rediscovery, by the Michelangelo Foundation. From saddles to fans, from pens to tapestries, from knives to vases to books. The artisan shops without which the big brands would not exist are told. To visit with slowness and open ears.

Homo Faber is the first act of the Michelangelo Foundation, founded by Franco Cologni of the Cologni Foundation and Johann Rupert, president of the Richemont Compagnie Financiere. In Venice, at the Cini Foundation, from 14 to 30 September.

Cover photo, Imaginary Architecture by India Mahdavi, photo Laura Traldi

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