Exploring the overlap between folk and fine art

Arte/Sano is a biennale event sponsored by the Museo de Arte Popular (Folk Art Museum) in Mexico City. The name is a play on words, and an indication of the purpose of the event. “Artesano” means artisan. “Arte” is art and “Sano” is healthy. The goal is the fuse the aims, styles and techniques of both handcrafts/folk art with fine arts in a healthy way.

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Light Cones Stele by Metzli Huazo and Mara Silva

This is done pairing various artisans with artists and designers to create projects. Its inspiration comes from the Bauhaus movement of 1919, as well as Mexico’s history of interaction between artists and artisans, especially in the 20th century with supporters such as Diego Rivera, Dr. Atl and Juan O’Gorman. Mexican art has featured images of handcrafts, and handcraft styles have been influenced by Mexican art. Perhaps the best known instance of this is the creation of Catrina figures, based on the character created by illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada.

Artist Jazzamoart with Altarpiece to Mexican toys of all time at Arte/Sano 4.0

Mexico still has a very large number and variety of both artists and artisans who can and have worked together to take advantage of the overlap between handcrafts/folk art and fine art. This does not mean that the artist or designer provides the creativity, but rather both sides work as equal partners with the aim of enhancing creativity all around. The event has attracted the participation of graphic designers, painters, architects, other visual artists, industrial and textiles designs as well as artisans from all over Mexico. The event has attracted notable participants such as Francisco Toledo, Pedro Friedberg, Jazzamoart, Luis Argudín, Gabriel Macotela and Diana Salazar. Pieces have been created with ceramics, wood, wax, stone, metals, cartonería (paper mache), textiles, leather and even video.

Dialogo Ludico  by Javier Bautista and Ariana Castellanos

One example is the collaboration between leather artisan Javier Bautista and industrial designer Ariana Castellanos.   Bautista learned to work with leather through workshops at the museum. The museum then invited him to work on a piece for the exhbit. Javier describes the experience with Castellano as a “dialogue” especially in the concept stage. The result was a leather-covered table, with a section for board games, but not just any board games but those which represent Mexican handcrafts and other aspects of Mexican culture, which were made for the table and have spaces for them built into the same.

Odonata by Alicia Lucero Palacios and Maria Jose Lavin

While there is a theme, there is no overall curation in the traditional sense of the word, with each participant interpreting the theme in their own way. Some pieces are quite artistic, with little or no practical function, and on the other side of the spectrum, there are pieces very similar to their handcraft roots. And everything in between.


The 2015 edition has 56 pieces by 31 teams and extends from November 2015 to February 2016.

(all images by Alejandro Linares Garcia)

More photos from the 2015 exhibition:

Opening ceremony with (L to R) Palle Seiersen Frost, Jazzamoart, Maria Esther Moreno, Gloria Carrasco and Walther Boestherly
Palle Seiersen Frost sitting in the chair called You and me by the artist and Ernesto Lopez Villavicencio
Mazahua Soul, Lord of the Deer and Difficult Decision by Isabel Quijano, Angelica Reyes and Matilde Reyes
The girls, seven sins, seven desires by Oscar Becerra Mora and Ruben Miguel Castillo Navarrete
Mazahua needlework artisans (L to R) Juana Martinez Policarpo, Lila Reyes Martinez and Angelica Reyes Martinez

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