Art faber is constructing a unifying space, unprecedented in cultural history, in which works of art reflecting upon economic worlds may be gathered in a new light.
From antiquity to the present day, prominent artists and their numerous creations have attested to its significance, and yet, this heritage remains largely unknown. In the words of Umberto Eco, one of our pioneering advocates, Art faber is “too beautiful and too powerful to remain so unknown”. The theme of artistic representations of economic worlds has, in fact, to date, never been conceptualised or organised in its entirety – and therein lies our project.
WHAT IS ART FABER?
This corpus brings together various types of artworks which take work, business, and more generally, economic life as their primary or secondary subject matter. Agricultural and commercial sectors, industries and services are thus evoked through their landscapes and infrastructure, their economic actors and their activities, as well as the services and products they manufacture.
Art faber engages all forms of artistic expression, including literature (fiction and poetry), graphic novels, fine art, music, photography, cinema, and the performing arts.
Whether laudatory or denunciatory, figurative or abstract, realistic or dystopian/utopian, all these creations take up their rightful place in our promotion of Art faber.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM ‘ART FABER’?
With his usual sense of mischief, philosopher Michel Serres remarked that if we were to continue using the expression ‘works of art representing work, business, and more generally the economic worlds ,’ we would “scare off half the audience, or put them to sleep!”
To overcome this objection, we therefore coined the term ‘Art faber’. It is universal, understandable in many languages, and captures the essence of the economic worlds: their ‘productivity’. Furthermore, it harks back to the philosophical and anthropological concept of Homo Faber, advanced by Nobel laureate Henri Bergson, among others, affirming the central importance of productive activities in human history.
The term ‘Art faber’ was adopted in 2018 by an international collective of members drawn from the artistic and economic spheres, led by Cloé Pitiot, Curator at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. This term has since been included in Le Manifeste de l’Art faber on 1 May 2019, the centenary of the ILO (International Labour Organisation), during an event held in the workshop of Edouard Manet, near Paris’ Gare St Lazare, one of the crucibles of Art faber.
WHY DOES ART FABER DESERVE OUR ATTENTION?
Far from being a marginal concern, Art faber can, and should, be a subject of major importance. works of vast artistic and societal significance.
Artistic stakes: Championing Art faber is a means of nurturing a new vision of the arts, seen from an economic perspective, and reveals daring aesthetic comparisons, new vocabulary, styles, and forms. As the impressionist painter Ludwig Meidner wrote in 1912:
“Couldn’t the dramatic tension of a well-painted factory chimney be more profoundly moving than Raphael’s Fire in the Borgo or Battle of the Milvian Bridge?”
It also fosters contemporary creativity with the economic worlds offering a perpetually evolving panoply of subject matter for artists.
Societal stakes: Art faber is primarily a matter of strategic significance. It deals with a central dimension of our lives and our civilisation, that is the economic sphere. As Henri Bergson argued in Creative Evolution (1911):
“If we could rid ourselves of all pride, if, to define our species, we kept strictly to what the historic and the prehistoric periods show us to be the constant characteristic of man and of intelligence, we should say not Homo sapiens, but Homo faber.”
And it is indeed Homo Faber, at once a talented manufacturer, a visionary designer, and an ingenious trader, who has been shaping the societies in which we operate from the beginning of time. Art faber sheds light on all these dimensions.
In addition, Art faber encompasses works which have helped to shape our societies. Firstly, because they are often militant works which celebrate or criticise economic life. They can therefore influence our views, contribute to the development of economic legislation, guide the choices made by businesses, and even lead to revolts. Secondly, because these works can be didactic; they can open up new perspectives on Faberian worlds, sometimes considered more instructive than those proposed by experts! Finally, because these works, through documenting these worlds, have an undeniable memorial significance.
Art Faber thus plays a role in shaping our social imagination, the system of shared references which inform our decisions and actions, both individual and collective.
HOW DO WE CLASSIFY A WORK OF ART AS FABER?
Some readers may raise an eyebrow at our decision to classify certain works as examples of Art Faber, often a posteriori and sometimes extrapolating on the intentions of their creators.
And yet, this is a well-established tradition in the arts, as well as in the field of literature.
“The work of art is a fundamentally ambiguous message, a plurality of meanings living together in one signifier […] A work of art is a complete and closed form in its uniqueness as a balanced organic whole, while at the same time constituting an open product on account of its susceptibility to countless different interpretations which do not impinge on its unadulterable specificity. Hence, every reception of a work of art is both an interpretation and a performance of it, because in every reception the work takes on a fresh perspective for itself”, affirms Umberto Eco in The Open Work.
Declaring a painting, sculpture, novel, poem or film to be “Art faber” does not, of course, preclude other, co-existing categorisations.
PROMOTING ART FABER
Our ambition is twofold: on the one hand to identify, amass, and promote the heritage of Art faber, and on the other hand to promote the work of artists and specialists on this subject (in particular through the publication of anthologies, thematic works, conferences and international events). These works are published predominantly by Actes Sud, Beaux-Arts Éditions and Opus Art Faber. This programme is of course open to all creators and experts interested in the theme. The promotion of Art Faber was officially launched on 27 July 2021 in New York, marking the occasion of an important Faberian anniversary...