The bond that was formed by artist Olivia Benveniste and designer Sonia Verguet at the Strasbourg School of Art and Design (Haute École des arts du Rhin), and the founding of the collective that resulted, are notable for their joining together of two disciplines which rarely join forces today. …
Having witnessed the stunning result, we are forced to admit that art and design still work as well together as they do separately. The frontiers between the two remain as porous as our physical frontiers.
The Strasbourg School of Art and Design stands beside Olivia Benveniste and Sonia Verguet, and supports the work they are doing to revive and continue the history of the close relationships that are possible between various artistic and artisanal disciplines—the fine and the applied arts, the visual and the popular arts, the creative and the utilitarian arts—on both the regional and the international scales.
The founders of Rhénanie have taken into account both the history of the arts and crafts of the Rhine basin and its millennia-long history of ferrying the region's people, their goods, and their raw materials, such as minerals and clays. Benveniste and Verguet have not only created a project that forms bonds between artists and designers. Their project also takes into account the visual and artisanal cultures of the countries bordering the Rhine, from Switzerland to Belgium, from France to the Netherlands; from yesterday to today, and on to tomorrow.
his project took a great deal of courage and innovation. These days, designers, artists and artisans tend to ignore one another, despite the love of the materials, colours and other aspects of their work that they share. Yet the history of art contains impressive examples of such joinings of forces: William Morris and Charles Macintosh in England and Scotland at the end of the 19th century; Hector Guimard and René Lalique of France's Jugendstil movement; Le Corbusier and Jean Prouvé of the modern Rationalist movement in France, for example. We need look no further than Strasbourg's Neustadt to find a plethora of examples of attempts in the past to combine the fine arts, decorative arts, and architecture. Now, more than a half century after their relegation to the dustbins of history, the decorative arts are making a spectacular comeback, thanks to the hard work and talent of artists and designers like Olivia Benveniste and Sonia Verguet.
Excerpts from David Cascaro's speech at the Fondation Aquatique Show's award ceremony, March 2015.