The dividing line between fine art and craft has been unraveling for decades. Once closely guarded by art historians, curators, and critics—who, as the scholar Terry Smith once put it, typically dismissed craft as “intimately associated with the hand, touch,” while associating art with headier pursuits like “ideas, suggestions, concepts”—the boundaries separating painting, ceramics, weaving, drawing, glassblowing, printmaking, and other processes and practices are now porous if not completely antiquated. This is plainly clear from visiting most major art museums where, increasingly, textiles share wall space with abstract paintings and glass, and clay sculptures sit on plinths alongside bronzes. In the past decade, this leveling of artistic disciplines has also reached the art market, with collectors, galleries, fairs, and auction houses embracing craft.
According to “The Market for Craft,” a report released last year by the Crafts Council, a nonprofit promoting craft art in the United Kingdom and internationally, the total value of craft objects sold in England alone more than tripled over the course of the last 13 years, going from £883 million ($1.7 billion) in 2006 to over £3 billion ($3.9 billion) in 2019. Craft’s transition from the devalued fringe to a major force in the art market mainstream has been fueled by a convergence of factors from within the art world and beyond.