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Sébastien Gschwind at Maroquinerie de Saint-Antoine

Artists’ residencies 2011: Un genre humain

Launched in 2010, the annual programme of artists’ residencies organised by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès allows four young visual artists to discover exceptional artisan skills. Mentored by artist Emmanuel Saulnier, Sébastien Gschwind was artist-in-residence at the Maroquinerie de Saint-Antoine in Paris, in 2011.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Sébastien Gschwind at Maroquinerie de Saint-Antoine
© Tadzio

Born in 1973, visual artist Sébastian Gschwind draws on architecture, design and graphic art to explore concepts of space and volume. A graduate of the Beaux-Arts in Nancy and Glasgow School of Art, he has studied with Emmanuel Saulnier, his mentor for the autumn 2011 residency, during which he worked alongside skilled artisans at the Maroquinerie de Saint-Antoine. 

Sébastien Gschwind experienced the workshops’ core skills, learning the rudiments of saddle-stitch, a technique he incorporated into the resulting work, Un genre humain, with the help of Hermès artisans. Four modules – part drum, part animal cage, each bigger than the last – consist of a complete skin attached to a skeletal structure, tied with leather straps around the middle. The diameter and volume of each drum are determined by the size of the skin used (calf, ostrich, goat, crocodile), arranged in a chromatic scale.

The totemic quality of the piece evokes the Grimm fairytale of the Musicians of Bremen, with its pyramid of beasts tottering one on top of the other, or Vladimir Tatline’sMonument to the Third International (1919-20). The solidarity demonstrated by the beasts in the story echoes Tatline’s architectural utopia. The piece’s four modules can also be placed one inside the other or arranged separately in space. In each variation, they are linked by a strap, forming ‘a kind of family, a united series of autonomous elements.’ (Clément Dirié).

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