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Rare crafts in the spotlight at Singular Talents in Geneva

Rare crafts in the spotlight at Singular Talents in Geneva

Wednesday, 05 February 2020
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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3 min read

The first exhibition to be jointly curated by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and the Michelangelo Foundation, both of which recently relocated to a historic building in downtown Geneva, highlights rare crafts and the “singular talents” who perpetuate these skills.

From Greece to Sweden and Norway, from Lithuania to the United Kingdom and Germany, from France to Italy and Switzerland, Singular Talents* takes us on a tour not of Europe’s landmarks but its outstanding artisan crafts. For their first joint exhibition, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) and the Michelangelo Foundation (MFO), whose role it is to promote and perpetuate artisanal excellence, take us into the worlds of fifteen outstanding craftsmen and women, in recognition of their skills which, like certain species, are threatened by extinction.

Talents Rares, Arcades des Arts © Nicolas Righetti
Talents Rares, Arcades des Arts © Nicolas Righetti

The exhibition takes on particular importance for both foundations, as it is the first to be held inside Arcades des Arts, a historic building that stands on the Pont de la Machine bridge in central Geneva, where the two co-curators relocated in January. More events and exhibitions will follow throughout the year, including a new exhibition in April, during Watches & Wonders Geneva (ex-SIHH) whose In the City programme features events across the city centre, including inside Arcades des Arts. The subject of Singular Talents is also important, as it reprises the theme chosen for Homo Faber, the Michelangelo Foundation’s inaugural event held in Venice in 2018.

Inform and educate

Those who weren’t able to travel to Venice and see this extraordinary gathering of master craftsmen and women will have the opportunity to discover fifteen of them, and their work, in Geneva – “discover” being the appropriate word as each of these personalities is the subject of a film, by Swiss director Thibault Valloton, which presents them in their studios and workshops, but also in relation to the regions that inspire them. Contrary to what one might expect, their work isn’t exclusively reserved for the luxury segment. This European voyage takes us to Greece and a maker of traditional saddles for mules and donkeys, to Norway where two women handmake rope, or to the United Kingdom where one man’s search for a globe for his father’s birthday inspired him to learn to become a globemaker himself. Some names will be familiar to those close to the watchmaking industry, such as independent watchmaker Philippe Dufour, enamel artist Anita Porchet, automaton maker François Junod, miniature painter Isabelle Villa or cabinetmaker Bastien Chevalier. They have all mastered an ancient skill that cannot be allowed to disappear.

Philippe Dufour, craftsman © (Wollodja Jentsch) Courtesy of Philippe Dufour
Philippe Dufour, craftsman © (Wollodja Jentsch) Courtesy of Philippe Dufour

The message behind Singular Talents, beyond the admiration and interest the objects on display inevitably elicit, is an educational one. Speaking at the opening, Franco Cologni, President of the FHH Cultural Council and Co-Founder of the MFO, summed up the situation perfectly: “This exhibition reveals a world where excellence is a culture that can only be learned through patience and perseverance. Of course, these artisans, these ‘singular talents’, belong to a world that hardly resembles a promised land for the young people of today. Low wages, a long apprenticeship, an uncertain future, what’s not to like! This is why we must bring these professions out into the open, talk about them, show them off, cherish them and do them justice.” Visitors will leave the exhibition all the more convinced.

*Singular Talents
Arcades des Arts – Pont de la Machine, Geneva
Free admission
January 30 – March 25, 2020
Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 7pm

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