On Monday 4 June 2018, an emotion-filled ceremony took place in the Salone d'Onore at the Triennale di Milano. In the presence of a tightly packed audience, the Maestro d'Arte e Mestiere organisation bestowed its title, Master of Arts and Crafts, on 77 maestri. In the festive and at times moving atmosphere of this second edition of the award, the new recipients were applauded warmly by a public from Milan and beyond. They had come to the Triennale to render homage to the talent and inimitable skill of our great artisans. Conceived and sponsored by the Cologni Foundation for the Métiers d'Art in collaboration with the Alma school of Italian cuisine, this unique award is a special tribute to Italian master artisans.
Of the 77 titles, 64 honoured talents in 23 categories of artistic craftsmanship (including ceramics, jewellery, woodcraft, furniture, metalwork, mechanics, mosaics, leather craft, printmaking, restoration, theatrics and textile design) and 13 titles paid homage to exponents of 13 different cuisine and beverage sectors. The aim of this biennial initiative is to institute the independent title of Maestro d'Arte for the first time in Italy, in acknowledgement of the excellence of the country's artisans and in compensation for the Italian system's grave deficiency in commendation. The MAM sustains, promotes and celebrates the extraordinary work of outstanding craftspeople by bringing them to the attention of the general public and the media.
During the awards ceremony, each of the 77 Masters of Arts and Crafts was the recipient of a tangible token of honour in the form of a medal, a work of art specially crafted for the occasion. It is made to an original design created at the centenary school of medal making Scuola dell'Arte della Medaglia, which is part of the state mint in Rome (Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato). The precious cast-bronze medal depicts an allegory of Italy and its talents. In addition, ten supporters of arts and crafts were lauded and thanked with a special certificate for playing a key role in the promotion, preservation and popularisation of our extraordinary artistic heritage, conducting their work in schools, businesses, institutions and the communications industry. At the end of the ceremony, the Alma school of Italian cuisine hosted a cocktail for the 300-plus guests.
Exquisitely authentic Italian fare was arranged according to regions whose most important traditional and world-famous delicacies were offered by Italian food manufacturers of absolute excellence. Impeccable and much-appreciated hospitality was given by the teachers and students of the Alma school of Italian cuisine.
The Master of Arts and Crafts award was created to pay a heartfelt and grateful tribute to the many “intelligent hands” behind the great flux of beauty found all throughout the national territory. These artisans are the ones who allow us to be worthy heirs of the Renaissance tradition and the unparalleled humanistic and cultural legacy it bequeathed us. While often hidden from the public eye, the masters' know-how, passionate commitment and human worth are what make Italy great.
They constitute one of its most important assets: an unequalled artistic, cultural and economic treasure recognised and admired the world over. In order to maintain Italy's long-standing edge in high craftsmanship, it is essential to protect and promote its unique traditional skills, so that the baton can be passed to new generations. This way, the masters' extraordinary knowledge will not be lost but safeguarded and vitalised with new blood thanks to design culture and the sensitive use of new technologies.
Each of this year's 77 Masters of Arts and Crafts was the recipient of a specially made work of art: a medal crafted by the Scuola dell'Arte della Medaglia, the school of medal making at the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato in Rome. It is the only art school in the world to be part of a state mint. Each edition of the MAM will feature a new version of this precious object, which will continue to be manufactured by the mint. Designed by a talented group of students from the Scuola dell'Arte della Medaglia, the casting chosen for 2018 is a refined allegory of creative intellect evoked by a delicate male profile with wings growing from the temples. The circle held in his hands symbolises the connection between mind, heart, intuition and rationality by which the métiers d'art originate. The act of creation is symbolised by abstract geometric figures morphing into an acanthus leaf, used here as a metaphor of the intricacy of craft.