Each year, the Spanish luxury house’s foundation looks beyond the silo of fashion to celebrate the enduring impact of art, design, and culture in the form of the Loewe Craft Prize. Conceived with the intention to honor under-recognized makers, the prize unearths new talent and accentuates the importance of craft in contemporary culture. Previous winners run the gamut from a giant, cloud-like textile sculpture to a bulbous lacquered object that resembles a bag of oranges.
This year’s winner, sculptor Eriko Inazaki, was selected from a roster of more than 2,700 working artists by a star-studded jury comprising Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson, Louvre director Olivier Gabet, Naoto Fukasawa, Enrique Loewe, and Patricia Urqiola. Her contribution, a ceramic sculpture whose crystallized surface evokes an extraterrestrial floral bloom, was described by the jury as virtuosic and lauded for its “spellbinding presence.” The highest praise came for her originality of ornamentation, which was described by jurors as unlike anything they had ever seen before.
At last night’s unveiling event, Inazaki provided insight into her vision and the magnitude of being announced as the winner in an emotional speech. “I’m not clear about naming my works, whether it’s art, craft or something else,” she said. “But I’ve been working all this time with the belief that what is a good piece of work goes beyond the boundaries of categories. This was an opportunity for me to realize that my work would resonate with so many people. It is truly an honor, and I am truly happy.”
Two other designers earned special mentions: West African sculptor Dominique Zinkpè’s wooden wall sculpture, The Watchers, deploys carved wooden Ibéji figures to evoke traditional Yoruba beliefs and was lauded for its “sculptural reinterpretation of traditional beliefs and its expansion of what contemporary craft can be.” Japanese ceramicist Moe Watanabe earned praise for her walnut bark box that jurors compared to the ancient Japanese tradition of Ikebana vase making. Its walnut bark construction was commended for its “celebration of the sheer materiality of bark,” while Watanabe’s use of rivets in the piece was seen as a reference to architectural construction and mending traditions.
The work of Inazaki, Zinkpè, Watanabe and the 27 other finalists are displayed as the first public exhibition to be presented at Isamu Noguchi’s former studio, which neighbors his namesake museum in Queens. “He hated what he called ‘the false horizon of the pedestal,’ and wanted to bring sculpture into everyday life,” the museum’s curator of research, Matthew Kirsch, told Vogue of the late visionary. The sentiment dovetails with Anderson’s motives for conceiving the prize in 2016, in the process creating a link between modern fashion, culture, and craft through recognition of skilled artisans.
“Craft is the essence of Loewe,” Anderson said following the announcement of the winner. “As a house, we are about craft in the purest sense of the word. That is where our modernity lies, and it will always be relevant.”