Held in a spirit of harmony embracing the design universe, R3, the third edition of Revelations, an international fair for fine craft and creation, will be on at the Grand Palais from 4 to 8 May. And paying homage to Chile’s artisanal production…
2017 marks the year of a biennial that will go down in history for all lovers of fine craftwork and exceptional savoir-faire. A biennial that will gather a large community of protagonists including designers and craftworkers, all of whom share a love for objects and the materials composing them, whether precious or not, innovative or traditional. Above all, Revelations has represented, since 2013, a veil lifted on a breeding ground of talent gathered under the glass dome of the Grand Palais, drawing a plethora of practices in which handiwork reigns supreme, in a stimulating atmosphere of exchange. This is an event with weighty significance and economic fallout for the whole of the profession, supported by artisan-creators, the “guardians” of French and international excellence.
Recognition for artistic professions – finally!
Set up in 2013 by Serge Nicole, president from 2006 to 2016 of the Ateliers d’Art de France (French professional union representing the craft professions), the Revelations fair has since taken up its quarters at the Grand Palais, an iconic spot for contemporary art… Whose choice may incidentally be a source of amusement for craftworkers given that the art of today has shown relative indifference to them, if not rejected them outright! Whatever the case, the event sets out to be the finest showcase for artistic professions offered to the world. Since its outset, it has defined itself as providing strong support to the sector’s visibility. Indeed, three years ago, the sector seemed to suffer from a lack of definition in the eyes of public authorities in France. At that time, the Ateliers d’Art de France succeeded in reshuffling the cards, thanks to its initiatives for representing, defending, and contributing to the development of the stream. At the union’s initiative, in June 2014, several months after the biennale’s first edition, Article 22 of France’s ACTPE bill (on craftsmanship, trade and very small enterprises) modified Article 20, henceforth recognising craft professions as an economic sector in their own right, as well as their artistic character – an element previously lacking from official definitions. “This was a big step forward for us,” explains Aude Tahon, ceramicist and newly appointed president of the union. “The change meant that a new list of 281 “artistic professions” could be established, taking us out of the overly exclusive field of craftwork.” Indeed, whatever a craftworker’s status – be it artistic craftworker, artist-creator, or employee in a private workshop or State manufacture –, anyone who transforms materials by hand into artistic works, produced in single units, is now recognised as a creative professional. The legitimacy of this stream in the 21st century is precisely what Revelations has stood for ever since its first edition, as a symbol and guarantor of national and international savoir-faire, with eyes cast toward the future.
An event of increasing substance, a significant economic motor
This year, greater numbers of exhibitors, ordering parties and visitors are expected over the five-day biennial, an opportunity to discover the best in French and foreign artisanal creation. Given the event’s touristic and media interest, one day has been added to its duration. It is also being held in spring for the first time, alternating with the “Monumenta” exhibition. In addition, it is expanding via an extra 300 m² under the dome. “We are extending certain spots at the extremities of the Grand Palais,” confirms Henri Jobbé-Duval, the fair’s general curator, “that don’t impinge on sound circulation and the openings created by Adrien Gardère’s scenography.” Indeed, the mise-en-scène offers breathing space thanks to its openwork panels in light-coloured wood, symbolic of the way in which the 400 exhibitors (up from 360 in 2015) look out towards others. The rise in the number of participants in no way means that expectations have slacked or that the selection is weaker. On the contrary. “This year, we are making it a point to be yet more rigorous,” adds Jobbé-Duval. “The artistic steering committee, overseen by Serge Nicole, consists of thirteen figures – reputed artist-creators, architects, critics and gallerists – who vouch for the quality and plurality of the professions that are represented.” But what exactly are the aims of such an event? Drawing together potential new buyers? Acquiring “genuine artistic legitimacy”, as Lison Barbier, a young paper artist and exhibitor puts it? Discovering future talent with the potential for being shown in galleries, as Arcanes hopes for? All this and much more… “In this prestigious spot, we wish to show our support for innovative artists working with materials, the most recent focus of our sponsorship,” Martine Tremblay, director of the Fondation Banque Populaire, tells us. In other words, stated financial objectives are accompanied by a hankering for international discoveries and encounters, conducive to future collaborations.
This policy of promoting international creation is reinforced in 2017 by the choice of a country of honour. After Norway in 2013 and Korea in 2015, the guest country in 2017 is Chile. “Participating in the Revelations fair is a challenge and a formidable boost for us, allowing us to raise awareness about the silent work of our master-artisans,” confides Ernesto Ottone, minister and president of the National Council of Culture and Arts in Chile. “We wish to make known our artists, gifted with often ancestral savoir-faire, who practise their craft with sobriety and sophistication, in an up-to-date manner. And this year, we are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Violeta Parra. An emblematic figure of Chilean creation: a singer, a poet, but also a sculptor and tapestry maker who lived for some time in Paris.” All these are good reasons for Chile’s presence, to which another is added: its desire to draw inspiration from French dynamism when it comes to recognition of artistic professions by public authorities. After showing pieces, in 2015, at the Banquet, the fair’s nerve centre, Chile is continuing to take advantage of unprecedented European visibility. Combining the forms of today with memories of its territory and sacred aspects, the country’s craft professions are powerfully displayed over 150 m² of stands, through the works of 25 creators selected by curator Nury Gonzalez, director of the Museum of Popular Art Tomas Lago.
The Banquet, the fair’s backbone and essence
This year, the Banquet aspires, once again, to be “the” big display of excellence at its very best. “We’re reusing scenography based on a river punctuated by national islands as we present the top international creation,” comments Henri Jobbé-Duval. “Except that in 2017, we’ve set up a special Banquet selection committee, made up of architect Odile Decq, Antoine de Galbert, creator of the Maison Rouge, and Adrien Gardère, designer and scenographer.” A trio that vouches for savoir-faire, but also innovation, eclectic practices and “cultural singularities”. Around a hundred pieces are being exhibited, originating from many regions around the world. France and South Korea are back of course. Nine other territories – including West Africa, but also China, Turkey, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Chile – are also represented. As if testifying to the widening of the family of craft professions, René-Jacques Mayer, president of the D’Days design festival and director of the École Camondo, has been appointed curator for the Banquet-France. “In agreement with the exhibition’s artistic steering committee, I’m presenting pieces in which the new technologies are instruments that serve the profession, while eliminating neither understanding of the material nor handiwork.” A refreshingly positive vision of global creation that collaborates with the design universe on an equal footing.
Design & craft professions, Revelations’ sacred union
If the initiative of bringing craft professions and the design universe into dialogue under the Grand Palais’ dome s entirely novel, it is nonetheless the fruit of productive reflection, until now kept under wraps, amongst the interested parties. “Along with the Ateliers d’Art de France, we realised that the D’Days festival, created 17 years ago, in May in Paris, was complementary without rivalling the craft professions’ biennale,” Mayer continues. “Artisans and designers share a love for materials and objects. Given this context, creating a collective dynamic with a promising future seemed like a natural step for us.” To make this harmonious match, the D’Days festival, supported by the association going by the same name, has changed its dates, but above all, it is bringing its two events – Péri’Fabrique and Speed Dating – to the Grand Palais, thus creating a new synergy.
Péri’Fabrique #6 abolishes the designer-artisan hierarchy
Péri’Fabrique, a design & craft professions programme organised by D’Days, with the support of the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller and the Territoire d’Est Ensemble Grand Paris, is presenting pieces produced by eight artisan-designer duos, or even trios, thanks to grants allocated to the latter. Note that here, it is the creator who selects onedesigner among others – and not the other way round. “Often, the designer selects the artisan as his ‘underling’,” adds René-Jacques Mayer. “This inverted relationship promotes the protagonists on a par.” A win-win duo? Yes, because dialogue with a designer, someone with ideas removed from one’s own activity, with the aim of creating a collaborative work, can only strengthen the prospective vision of the artisan-creator. We thus have the chance to see the fruit of eight such complicities, including the one between Christian Ghion and the Bettenfeld-Rosenblum leatherworking and gilding workshop, Pierre Charrié and leatherworker Maison Fey, Marta Bakowski and weaver Maïté Tanguy, or Désormeaux & Carrette and cabinetmaker Valentin Roman.
Productive speed dating
Other initiatives of the fair include its Speed Dating programme. Created in 2015 by D’Days, coproduced with the Ateliers de Paris and the Institut National des Métiers d’Art, in partnership with the Ateliers d’Art de France, among others, it brings together artisans and ordering parties during encounters that are as efficient as they are brief (15 minutes). These meetings enable interior architects, decorators, designers to discover a rich wealth of savoir-faire and help them in their investigations of different craft metiers. An initiative that nurtures the pooling of expertise…
An “outside-the-walls” programme at ten Parisian locations
Basing its model on the one adopted by certain art fairs, Revelations is widening its offer through a series of “off-premises” events. Visitors can pick and choose from the various events and exhibitions at the heart of the French capital, which beat to the same creative rhythm as the biennale at the Grand Palais. On the programme: the Musée de la Vie Romantique, the Fonds Carré Rive Gauche, the Empreintes concept-store, the Galerie de Sèvres, the Galerie Collection, as well as the Mobilier National/Manufacture des Gobelins and the Cité de la Céramique de Sèvres will be welcoming Revelation visitors. The Empreintes concept-store, as well as the Galerie Collection, are featuring ceramicist Daphné Corregan, whose work illustrating the fair’s poster has taken on iconic status. Meanwhile, the Fonds Carré Rive Gauche (an association of antique dealers and art galleries) is presenting, under its glass roof, works by painter and sculptor Philippe and Quentin Garel, to echo the programmes of several of the association’s member galleries. Guided tours, children’s workshops, and numerous talks and films, fill out this palette of offers.
An ideal springboard for young buds thanks to the exhibition featuring winners of the Young Creative Craftsworker’s Award, Revelations remains a frontline economic lever for artisan-creators. But beyond this asset, the fair puts an end, this year, to the endless and useless debates on hierarchies as it follows its ambition to turn the capital, over a few days and more than ever, into a global economic centre of attraction for contemporary creation.
The 2017 Revelations biennale
The fair’s 3rd edition, held in a new season, spring
An “outside-the-walls” itinerary including over 10 locations
400 exhibitors at the Grand Palais, from 17 countries, chosen out of 600 applications
An artistic steering committee comprising 13 members
One country of honour, Chile, displaying around fifty pieces
Over 40,000 visitors expected
Aude Tahon, president of the Ateliers d’Art de France
The Revelations fair is welcoming visitors into a lively atmosphere of openness to the world and creation. What does the fair symbolise in your opinion?
It continues to incarnate, more than ever, international recognition of France as a land of creation, one that looks attentively at others, and that respects practices. It enables us to construct ourselves, us artisan-creators, and to show ourselves as we are: enterprises that take part in our country’s worldwide renown. The development of our sector serves as an example for many countries, namely for Chile, the country of honour.
On this note, what motivated this choice?
In 2015, the Republic of Chile exhibited an artist working with bronze at the Banquet, Juan Carlos Orellana Zapata. This display showed dynamism and time-consuming labour, whose values and principles we share. In this enterprising creative context, we decided to lift the veil on the country’s creations.
Why are you embarking on an active partnership with the world of design this year?
We work on the same markets. Although we have different identities, we are called to work together, without having one serve the other. The Fondation Bettencourt Schueller and the Territoire d’Est Ensemble Grand Paris employ a large-scale policy that promotes a rapprochement between craft professions and designers. We are highlighting this by creating a community of creators on a global scale.
The Banquet is the real “backbone” of the fair. What are the criteria used by the selection committee’s specialists when choosing pieces?
The curator of each country being represented makes an upstream selection and proposes it to the members of the jury. A to-and-fro process ensues between these two players. The selection committee considers the innovative nature of the pieces and their savoir-faire while taking a distance from their appearance. Together with the national curator, they wish to show off innovative and forward-looking creation that flies the flag of artisanal creation.
Revelations, International Fine Craft & Creation Biennale. From 4 to 8 May, Grand Palais, Avenue Winston-Churchill, Paris 75008. www.revelations-grandpalais.com and www.ateliersdart.com
Festival D’Days. From 2 to 14 May. www.ddays.net