Created in 1994 by the French Ministry of Culture to preserve the French intangible cultural heritage the title of Master of Art (‘Maître d’Art’) is awarded for life to ” distinguished professionals with an exceptional mastery of techniques and know-hows. They are recognised by their peers for their expertise as well as their transmission skills. They must be able to transmit their skills and knowledge to a student who will be able to perpetuate them.” To this day, 132 people have been named Master of Art in France, 90 of whom are still working, and 14% of whom are women.
This title is inspired by the Japanese ‘Living National Treasure’ title created in Japan in 1954 awarded to individuals certified as ‘Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties’ (重要無形文化財保持者 Jūyō Mukei Bunkazai Hojisha).
To apply to be a Master of Art, craftsmen and women must be “a professional from the artistic crafts sector with a significant experience and a rare and exceptional know-how”. He or she must commit to teaching a student for at least three years, because transmission of skills “to a younger professional, who will be capable of preserving and reinventing them” is an essential part of the programme.
In 2012, the Ministry of Culture transferred the Master of Art – Student programme over to the Institut national des Métiers d’Art (INMA). The Institut is working with the Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation to help the programme grow, notably to improve the way techniques and know-hows are transmitted from the Masters of Art to their students.
Founded in 2010, the mission of the Institute is to enlighten the public about the wealth of artistic crafts, their educational and cultural value, their potential for employment creation and social empowerment, and to support them in achieving long-term growth.
INMA seeks to promote artistic crafts as a way to reveal the beauty of our everyday lives, as ambassadors of our way of life and creators of collective intelligence for our future. Beyond their technical and artistic prowess, the skills exercised in artistic crafts are the trademark of a humanity that needs to be transmitted, and the bearers of a universal message.
With the support of the Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation, INMA is currently renovating the programme to transform it into an innovative laboratory of transmission, and to prepare the renewal of these skills and techniques.