Chinese artist Lin Fanglu wins the Loewe Craft Prize 2021

Jonathan Anderson, artistic director of the firm, highlights the ability of the winner to "take tradition, craftsmanship, and make it abstract"



Madrid - 25 MAY 2021 - 16:16 GMT+8


This Tuesday, the work that won the prize of the fourth edition of the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize, the world's most important craft prize for excellence, is an installation that, from the distance, looks like a huge rocky cloud hanging from the wall, half meter from the ground. Being closer, however, allows us to appreciate that, in reality, it is a prodigious amalgam of embroidery, lace and other textile works that, mixed and superimposed, seem almost blurry, as if time had brought them together in a natural way.

The piece, called SHE, was created in 2016 by Chinese artist Lin Fanglu. "What caught the jury's attention was this idea of ​​taking the tradition of craftsmanship and making it abstract," says Jonathan Anderson, artistic director of Loewe and member of the contest jury, in a videoconference interview, chaired by Anatxu Zabalbeascoa and with members as prestigious as Benedetta Tagliabue, Patricia Urquiola, Deyan Sudjic or Naoto Fukasawa.

“The scale of the piece is very unusual, and it creates the feeling of being absorbed by some kind of abstract landscape. It was something that a large part of the jury had never seen, and that novelty was a very important element of the decision”.

For Lin Fanglu, born in 1989, living in Beijing is not incompatible with looking at the rural world. To create this work, she went to Yunnan, a mountainous province in southwest China, home to several ethnic minorities. "I have been thinking about traditional crafts from the perspective of contemporary art for years," she explains to EL PAÍS by email. "I have visited Yunnan many times to understand the conditions in which its inhabitants live and  the traditional dyeing techniques of the Bai minority."


The winning piece, titled 'SHE', by Chinese artist Lin Fang

The winning work is the result of that dialogue, but also of a much more intimate aspect: the personal, physical gesture of the craftsman. "Dyeing and knitting are practices that combine rationality and sensitivity, mind and body," explains the artist, who spent three months weaving, knotting, embroidering and folding white cotton to compose the piece.

“The existence of individuals, the traces of their body, the perception of human nature and the expression of the will and the ego are reflected in the gestures of the hands, connecting body and art. Doing it by myself allows me to reflect the reality of my spirit”. SHE, therefore, is not a display of rural textile techniques, but rather a sculpture that, hung on the wall, allows us to talk about concepts and intimacy, about life and the body.

Anderson points out in turn: "Something very fascinating is happening in the world of textile crafts." He adds: “There is something delicate and extraordinary about the ability to use it to create shapes like this.  It brings out new questions and opens new frontiers. That's what matters".

The two finalists for the Loewe Craft Prize. Above, creation of Takayuki Sakiyama; below, by David Corvalán.LOEWE

The fourth edition of the contest has been marked by the pandemic. The awards ceremony should have been held in 2020 in Paris, but its directors decided to postpone it until the situation began to normalize. Finally, this year it has not been possible to organize an exhibition with the 30 finalists either, although the formula chosen by the Loewe Foundation has something of a hybrid: the public can virtually visit, through a website, a virtual reconstruction of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris in which the selected works appear. The awards ceremony, presented by actor Josh O'Connor, was broadcasted live through the company's social networks. In addition, at the same time, The Room has been launched, a database that uses the works selected in the different editions of the contest as a starting point to map the most contemporary and experimental crafts in the world.

Loewe's artistic director declares: "This is clearly an alternative solution, because the ideal would have been to present the works in the museum, but the world as it is, is difficult." The designer says: “The team has worked very hard to find a way to reflect the scale of the objects as a whole. Of course, we hope to hold an exhibition in the next edition. But surely we will use this digital format as a complementary support”.