High End Craft

Craft, Handloom, Art, Cultural, Creative Industries, Luxury

High End Craft: Blurring the Lines Between Art & Craft

McComb, Jessie F.

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During a conference in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago I happened upon an interesting exhibit at the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The American Art Museum, which frequently hosts shows from American artists and maintains the nation's foremost collection of contemporary craft and "folk" art, is currently showing "High Fiber," an exhibit that "illustrates the diversity of contemporary art created with fiber..." (http//americanart.si.edu/collections/exhibitions.cfml). The exhibit, an excellent example of the innovative use of materials, struck me as a meeting place between art and craft and set my mind thinking about the thinning line between these two categories. Some of the pieces were clearly art, their form completely useless in everyday life. However, others were quite functional as blankets, drapes or tablecloths. It soon occurred to me that the very line I pondered upon was a somewhat artificial one, created in the white spaces inside galleries and museums.

In the past five years the some most renowned and respected crafts museums in America have all done a very interesting thing, changed their names. The American Craft Museum in New York became the Museum of Art and Design. The Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco recently added the word art to their name in order to tap into the high art world. A more recently opened museum, also in California, named itself the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design, including the important qualifier "design" and...
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