Romane Sarfati, CEO of the Manufacture nationale française de Sèvres and the National Museums of Sèvres and Limoges, talks about the bright future of ceramics and porcelain.
What collaborations of artists, designers or architects stand out in the history of the Manufacture de Sèvres?
From the 18the century, you have François Boucher, a very famous French painter. In the 19e century, you have Auguste Rodin. During the 20e century, we have had a lot of artists, like Jean Arp, Arman, Alexander Calder. The list of sculptors, painters and designers is very long, and from the end of the 20e century so far we have received around 10-20 invitations per year, which is a very dynamic artistic invitation policy. We select international and French artists and designers. We had very well known artists like Louise Bourgeois, Pierre Soulages, Lee Ufan and Giuseppe Penone, as well as very famous designers like Ettore Sottsass and Matali Crasset. Some of the designers and artists we have recently worked with include Zoe Paul on a porcelain curtain, Julio Le Parc on a sculpture and mobile, Arthur Hoffner on a fountain and Nicolas Buffe on a fine jewelry collection. We design and produce pieces ranging from jewelry to architecture, which means porcelain is a wonderful material to create a huge selection of pieces. The idea is to show that Sèvres is very young, can take risks and can manufacture different types of parts.
Tell me about your collectors and the audience you are trying to reach.
Most of them are between 40 and 50 years old and the idea is to reach more and more young people. This is what we do when we invite young designers – collectors are younger because they are more sensitive to this vision. In Sèvres, the pieces are all made by hand, so it costs a lot of money. The idea is for them to get to know Sèvres through smaller and less expensive pieces, and more recently, to show them pieces that we have installed in the public space. We sell to collectors, but we also work with public institutions, transport companies, ministries or town halls to produce and install monumental pieces visible to all. A few years ago, we had an order with RATP public transport in Paris, where we produced a large porcelain painting by Barthélémy Toguo which was installed at the Château Rouge metro station in a very popular area of Paris. You can visit our workshops and our museum, and you have historical and contemporary pieces from Sèvres in museums around the world, but also in public spaces. This means that Sèvres is not only for the rich, but also for anyone who can admire the pieces in the streets.
How do you see the future of porcelain manufacturing?
It is a very interesting period because there are more and more young people interested in crafts in general, in particular ceramics and porcelain. It’s wonderful to see how excited the students are to learn with our artisans. A few years ago, we didn’t have this kind of commitment and so many young people interested in joining us. Our students come from different schools. Some have degrees in ceramics, but most come from the history of art, architecture and design, artistic fields in general, bringing different points of view. Some have very advanced degrees and are intellectuals who have been trained to acquire knowledge, but they are interested in working with their hands and with our exceptional craftsmen. It’s a new trend, especially in France. The same goes for artists and designers. They are more and more interested in ceramics and know more and more about the potential of this material, so it is very dynamic now.