Artisans and craftsmen of the performing arts

From 14th October to 11th March 2017

With Artisans and Craftsmen of the Performing Arts, the National Center of Stage Costume invites the visitors to discover the rare crafts and excellent skills of the artisans and craftsmen working in the shade of great performances or in the backstage of the entertainment industry. Thanks to the various creations of stylists, stage costume, armor or jewelry designers, feather head-band or wigmakers, as well as hairdressers and shoemakers, the CNCS exhibition will reveal the specific techniques and extraordinary savoirfaire of the artisans and craftsmen manufacturing stage costumes and accessories. Their secrets will be unveiled through 250 costumes, accessories, stage sets, videos, pictures and prototypes. Many belong to the CNCS collections. Some will come from the Paris Opera, the Comédie-Française and the National Library of France. Others will be provided by free-lance stage artisans and craftsmen.

Exhibition with some pictures

The exhibit will open with two rooms dedicated to the costume makers, in other words the artisans whose art is to “translate” the costume designer’s sketches into three-dimensional pieces. The following ten rooms will focus on the many professions that theater productions encompass. The windows will showcase exceptional artifacts. From head to toe: hats, wigs, masks, carcasses (metal frameworks covered with rhinestones and ornamental feathers), jewels, costume ornamentations, armors and shoes. Each one of them will display about twenty articles. Whatever the craft, documentaries, pictures, drawings, samples or prototypes will illustrate the step-by-step process that their realization entails and the elaborate savoir-faire that their tailoring, assemblage or montage requires. A spectacular staging will conclude the exhibition. Its rendering will pay homage to the set designers and artisans in charge of the stage décors. It will also announce the upcoming opening of the Centre d’interprétation de la scénographie (or Interpretation Center of Set Design), a project that is part of the CNCS extension.This new Center will be inaugurated in the Fall 2019.

Although most of the professions listed above are making a come-back thanks to luxury French brands like Hermès and LVMH whose workshops may be visited or High Fashion runways whose themes exemplify such state-of-the-art craftsmanship (those of the Maison Chanel are a case in point), they have yet to be the object of in-depth studies or general publications. With Artisans and craftsmen of the performing arts, the CNCS looks forward to bringing them forth into the spotlight. Hence, the pedagogical approach of this exhibition and its detailed catalogue. Essential and therefore at the heart of the exhibition are the questions related to the transmission of those savoir-faire. That is why the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Techniques du Théâtre (the National School of Theater Arts and Techniques, or ENSATT), the GRETA (a public training school for adults), not to mention professional high schools and institutes preparing to the Diplôme des Métiers d’Art Costumier will collaborate with the CNCS. Not only will they partake into the exhibition -indeed, they will present some of their students’ artistic creations-, but the latter will occasionally offer guided tours or demonstrate the mastery of their craft during workshops.

Last but not least, the exhibition will give the public the opportunity to trace the history of those professions. Their origin will be linked to that of the performing arts. Since many of them face profound mutations or are on the verge of disappearing, their social history will also be evoked. Their evolution and future will be examined in the light of developing new techniques.