Loewe Craft Prize 2017 at Chamber NYC
New York’s Chamber Gallery hosted the Loewe’s Craft Prize exhibition. Championing its own age-old artisanal production techniques, the Spanish fashion house and foundation showcased a selection of 26 finalists pushing the envelope of independent contemporary practice.
Far from recreating the prescribed craft kits we played with as children, today’s independent artisans are redefining the discipline with work at the forefront of material experimentation and conceptual speculation. Loewe Foundation – the cultural branch of the Spanish fashion house with the same name – held the first edition of its annual craft prize this year. With the mandate of showcasing the best in artisanal prowess – echoing the brand’s own commitment to age-old production techniques – the final selection of 26 international finalists reveals a wide diversity of fresh processes, vernacular references, formal applications, aesthetic compositions and if only in the flesh: elegant gestures, deep textures, nostalgic colour tones and symbolic appropriations. Some works champion the metaphoric and physical tension between detail and function while others reevaluate the very foundations of structure. Long gone are the days of clunky eclecticism. Traditional material categories like textile, ceramic, metal, and proven techniques like lacquering, casting, and glass-blowing are simultaneously championed and challenged. On view at New York’s Chamber gallery last week, the Loewe Craft Prize exhibition will travel to Tokyo in November and London’s Collect Fair in February 2018.
With a jury composed of Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson, Droog Design founder Gijs Bakker, former Vitra CEO Rolf Fehlbaum, Japan Folk Museum Director and respected designer in his own right Naoto Fukasawa, Loewe Foundation honorary president Enrique Loewe, London Design Museum Director and contemporary critic Deyan Sudjic, Pritzker Prize jury member Benedetta Tagliabue, W Magazine Editor in Chief Stefano Tonchi, leading designer Patricia Urquiola, and architecture and design correspondent Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, the Loewe Craft Prize brought together talents from 16 nations; of various generations and backgrounds.
Winning top prize, German wood master Ernst Gamperl’s oeuvre stands as a testament to both the celebration of cultural heritage and the mitigation of future-proof innovation. Tree of Life is a series of wood-lathed vessels that take organic shape based on the natural fissures and fractures in the wood. Hewing thin-skinned vases from large masses of 300-year old oak, Gamperl establishes a close tactile relationship with nature. Rather than forcing the material into a predetermined form, the craftsperson partners with innate forces to achieve refined results. Gamperl attentively carves small groves while adding clay, earth, and stone powder. Still, it is the wood’s tannic acid that provides its own finish. However true to nature, Tree of Life vessels achieve an otherworldly presence; adding complex surface treatments to seemingly smooth monolithic forms.