http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/state/France

A Living Human Treasure system

Strengthening transmission is one of the most important means to safeguard ICH. UNESCO encourages States to create national systems of “Living Human Treasures” that honour exemplary tradition-bearers and encourage them to transmit their skills and knowledge.

Introduction

The creation of the official title of Master of Art (Maître d’art) was inspired by the National Living Treasures of Japan. Following their example, the Masters of Art transmit their rare know-how. They are devoted to the evolution of their crafts and display a spirit of innovation.

Legal measures

The Art Crafts Council (Conseil des métiers d’art) was created by the Ministerial Order of 16 March 1994 of the Minister of Culture and Communication in order to protect and develop rare and exceptional know-how held by professionals of the art crafts in the private sector.
This Ministerial Order of 16 March 1994 was superseded by the ministerial order of 28 March 2002 (French) pertaining to the Art Crafts Council, then by the ministerial order of 3 August 2004 (French) pertaining to the Art Crafts Council and the Art Crafts Mission.
The title of Master of Art was established through a Ministerial Order on 15 November 1994.

Who are the « Masters of Art »?

The "Maître d'art" Jean Dominique Fleury, painter on glass, among its apprentices
The “Maître d’art” Jean Dominique Fleury, painter on glass, among its apprentices

A Master of Art is a highly skilled professional who masters exceptional or rare know-how. Recognised by his peers for his experience and pedagogical competencies, he must be capable of transmitting his knowledge and skills to an apprentice in order to keep them alive for future generations.

Domains of intangible cultural heritage concerned

The 63 currently recognized Masters of Art exercise their activities in the following domains:

  • instrument making
  • prints and bookbinding
  • theatre, music and dance
  • building techniques
  • textiles and fashion design
  • pottery and ceramics
  • mecanical arts
  • wood working and cabinet making
  • metal
  • jewellery, and gold and silver work.

Responsible body in charge of the system

The Art Crafts Council (Conseil des métiers d’art)

Created in 1994 by Ministerial Order, the Art Crafts Council is an advisory body.
It is presided over by the Minister of Culture and Communication, who is represented by an honorary president.
The Council comprises 30 members designated by order of the Minister of Culture for a term of three years, renewable for a further term. The 30 members are professionals of the art crafts and representatives of professional bodies. The Council also comprises ex-officio members (Plastic Arts Delegation, Directorate of Music, Dance, Theatre and Live Entertainment, Directorate of Architecture and Heritage, Directorate of the Museums of France, Directorate of Books and Reading, Directorate of the French Archives, Delegation of Territorial Action and Development, officials of the Art Crafts Mission, and Regional Directorates for Cultural Affairs).
A representative of the Ministry in charge of crafts also participates in the work of the Council.
The members of the Council meet at least twice a year in plenary session and work in commissions. They assume their functions on a voluntary basis.

The members of the Council are invested with the following missions:

  • facilitate dialogue between the art craft professionals and the ministerial services concerned;
  • make proposals for preservation, innovation, promotion and training in the art crafts;
  • participate in the different selections of candidate dossiers;
  • examine the candidacies of future Masters ;
  • respond to inquiries;
  • present the selected candidates to the Minister of Culture and Communication;
  • ensure follow-up, support and coaching for the transmission of know-how from the masters to their students.

The Art Crafts Mission

The Art Crafts Mission coordinates the actions relating to the art crafts, and ensures the Secretariat of the Art Crafts Council.
In particular, its mission is to:

  • perpetrate exceptional art crafts;
  • ensure the valorisation and promotion of the Masters of Art and their crafts;
  • every two years, with the Art Crafts Council and the Selection Working Group, organise and select the Masters of Art nominated by the Minister of Culture and Communication;
  • plan a three-year pedagogical and administrative follow-up for students, during the period of transmission of the skills.

Selection Process

The "Maître d'art" Pierre Meyer, turner of figures on ivory, with an apprentice
The “Maître d’art” Pierre Meyer, turner of figures on ivory, with an apprentice

The Masters of Art are selected every two years. The selection process is established by the Selection Working Group, the Art Crafts Mission and the Regional Directorates for Cultural Affairs. This operation is carried out in close collaboration with the Art Crafts Council and the experts who participate in the short listing of the candidacies in accordance with certain criteria. The Selection Working Group meets several times, according to the specific domains, and designates three rapporteurs – a professional of the art crafts, an expert from the Ministry, and a specialist of the craft concerned – who examine the pre-selected candidacies and visit the workshops.
The candidacies are examined by the Art Crafts Council, the Art Crafts Mission and the Selection Working Group.
Finally, the Art Crafts Council draws up the list of art craft professionals from which the Minister of Culture and Communication designates the Masters of Art. The title of Master of Art is conferred by Ministerial Order.

Selection criteria

The criteria are:

  • to have practiced for at least 10 years;
  • to possess a rare or exceptional know-how;
  • to demonstrate excellence;
  • to accept to transmit this rare know-how to an apprentice.

The following criteria should also be taken into account:

  • the jury’s concerns to preserve rare or exceptional know-how, which have yet to be recognized;
  • the desire to value the rarity of excellence in certain non-endangered professional fields;
  • the candidates’ ability to contribute to the evolution of their professional field through the innovations they have carried out;
  • the economic viability of their know-how;
  • the usefulness of this know-how for the preservation-restoration of intangible heritage and contemporary creation;
  • the candidates’ ability to take into account the future of their profession and to communicate their know-how.

Rights and obligations of the Masters of Art

Once designated, the Master of Art is invested with the mission to transmit his know-how to an apprentice. This transmission takes place in the Master’s workshop over a period of three years. The transmission of know-how is the subject of an agreement between the Master of Art and the Ministry of Culture and Communication which provides a yearly allocation, the amount of which is fixed by the Minister (16,000 Euros in 2004). A second agreement, established between the Master of Art and the apprentice, defines the pedagogical and practical modalities of the training.

More information on the Masters of Art

As of mid 2006, France counted 63 Masters of Art designated by the Minister of Culture and Communication: 20 in 1994, 12 in 1995, 5 in 1996, 7 in 1998, 6 in 2000, 6 in 2002 et 7 in 2004.

For more information on the system, please consult:

  • Web sites: http://www.metiers-art.culture.fr/, http://www.maitres-art.com/
  • Order of 15 November 1994
  • Order of 3 August 2004 (French) pertaining to the Art Crafts Council and the Art Crafts Mission
  • Candidature dossier for the title of Master of Art (French)