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Bernar VENET

Baroness Philippine de ROTHSCHILD

Compiled By Chinese Bordeaux Guide
Photos by Pat Verbruggen and Karl Lagerfeld

The label for Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2007 is by sculptor and graphic artist Bernar VENET.

Born in 1941, the Frenchman is known for his monumental steel “lines”, which alternate the strict geometry of straight lines and curves with the profusion of random coils. Their rhythms punctuate the urban landscape of many cities in the United States, Germany, Japan and France. In Paris, one of his works adorns the La Défense business district.

While suggesting the swell of a barrel, the arcs Venet has drawn for Mouton evoke chalices rooted in the earth and open, like vinestocks, to the precious gifts from above.

Bernar Venet was born in a village in Haute-Provence. At the age of seventeen, a precocious artistic vocation took him to Nice, where he studied drawing. He first came to notice in 1963 with his tar paintings and cardboard reliefs.

During the 1960s, having become a leading light of conceptual art, Venet discovered the true source of inspiration for his future work: the mathematical diagram, whose axes, curves and equations he reproduced on canvas. However, he interrupted all creative activity from 1971 to 1975 to take a long break devoted to reflection and teaching.

The year 1976 marked a new departure for Venet. Dividing his time between New York and Provence, where his property at Le Muy would provide the setting for an extraordinary personal museum, Venet started exploring a new material, raw steel bars, taking advantage of their monumental possibilities.

He worked them in “lines” – straight, curved, broken, oblique or even “indeterminate”. These random coils would make him famous around the world, imposing his characteristic style in numerous collections and in prestigious locations in the United States, Germany, Japan and France

Every year since 1945, the Chateau Mouton Rothschild label has been the work of a contemporary painter. In 1924, to salute his first vintage bottled entirely at the chateau, Baron Philippe de ROTHSCHILD (1902-1988), the late father of present proprietor Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, asked the famous poster designer Jean CARLU to create the Mouton label.

Ahead of its time, it remained an isolated initiative. In 1945, this time to celebrate the return of peace, the baron decided to crown the label for the vintage with the “V” for Victory, drawn by the young painter Philippe JULLIAN. From this exceptional circumstance a tradition was born and, from 1946, every year a different artist is invited to create an original artwork for the label.

Initially, Baron Philippe chose painters from amongst his friends, such as Jean HUGO, Léonor FINI and Jean COCTEAU. In 1955, Georges BRAQUE agreed to illustrate the vintage, and he was succeeded by some of the greatest artists of our time, including Dali, Cesar, Miro, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Soulages, Bacon, Balthus and Tapies.

Responsible for choosing the artists since the 1980s, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild always respects their artistic freedom, though most of them are attracted by certain themes, such as the vine, the pleasure of drinking, or the ram, the emblem of Mouton.

The artists receive no fee for their work but are given cases of Mouton Rothschild, including of course their “vintage”. Over the last twenty years or so, on the initiative of Baroness Philippine, the collection has formed the basis for an exhibition, “Paintings for the Labels”, shown in many museums throughout the world.

All Rights Reserved · The Wine Review · 2013