Chateau Mouton Rothschild Celebrates One Century Of Putting Art On Its Wine Labels

Arts & Celebrities

Since 1924, Château Mouton Rothschild, one of the world's greatest wines, has been putting art on its labels, helping its young 22-year-old owner, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, change the way Bordeaux made wine. At the time, most châteaux in Bordeaux sent their new wine in barrels after the harvest to the warehouses of merchants in the city. The merchants matured the wine for two years, then bottled it and sold it around the world. Winemaking was a joint effort and quality control was shared between the castle and the merchant. When paper labels became the norm around 1860, the traders (wine merchants) designed and applied them, with the merchant's name often appearing as prominently as the estate's.

Baron Philippe rejected the system and made the bold decision to leave his castle wine in his own bottles with his own labels. But these weren't the ordinary little text-only labels of the time. To show how different he was, he commissioned a hallmark from Jean Carlu, an avant-garde French graphic designer specializing in posters known for introducing Cubism to advertising. He became the first artist to place commercial artwork on a wine label. During the last century, some of the most famous names in art have left their mark on the bottles of Château Mouton Rothschild: Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, Henry Moore, César, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, William Kentridge , Olafur. Eliasson and, more recently, Chiharu Shiota. A compendium of the greatest artists of their era that offers an intimate look into the life of a respected family and the changing times in which they lived, the artist label collection has become a set of 'works important enough to be exhibited in museums around the world. Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, sixth-generation family member and co-owner of Château Mouton Rothschild, explains to me the process of selecting wine label artists.

How far in advance do you contact the artists you want to work with?

Not early enough. I never start early enough. In fact, every year I start a little earlier. When I started in 2014, after my mother's death, it was fine because my mother had already chosen the artist of 2012, Miquel Barceló. So it was no doubt. Then in 2013, there was Hockney, but the thing was a bit fragile, so luckily we had Lee Ufan, which went really well. It took me a little too long to choose, so yes, I have to choose in advance, even more so now, as artists are increasingly busy and in demand, not by wineries especially, by everyone, by museums, galleries, the institutions.

Do the artists spend a week at Château Mouton Rothschild when they create the wine labels?

Not always, not all the time. The problem is that they are very busy, so they can spend a day or two, but not more. They are the great, the great and well-known names of contemporary art.

Have you ever featured ancient art?

No, but my mother had this idea to reproduce an object from our museum in a very clever way in the bottle of the vintage 2000. It's good to have other ideas, to find something else. For now, no, but anyway, every year, we'll see.

Are the artists you choose not necessarily your friends?

No. To be perfectly honest, the artists I've asked have become, for some of them, friends or with whom I have a good relationship. Some I didn't know personally before I asked.

Were all the artists Baron Philippe and Baroness Philippine commissioned their friends?

No. If we know an artist and he's famous, that's wonderful. For Bernar Venet, mother knew Bernar, and Anish Kapoor, she knew him because she had met him several times, but between meeting several times and actually being friends, there is a difference.

What are some of your favorite artist labels throughout their history?

It is impossible for me to say. I'll probably let others have their preference. For me, they are Mouton artists and therefore the work they have done is an emotion and an inspiration they have given to Mouton. In fact, I will go further. I don't even have tags that I like less. If there are certain ones that are less to my taste, I always understand the choice that has been made. I am happy with all the artists and what they have done.

What has been the most challenging label you've worked on?

One of the most stressful was that of David Hockney because of the situation. Hockney had said yes to my mother, then she died and he didn't know the new generation. I had been introduced to my grandfather by a mutual friend, and I don't know what happened, but it didn't pan out. I understood that Hockney no longer wanted to do anything, so it was a real challenge to transform the yes I had given my mother into a postmortem yes, with me coming to see him. After that, I had to make sure that his yes wasn't just a polite yes, and that he was actually going to do the work, so yeah, it was pretty stressful.

Tell me about the production process of each label.

Some brands work with artists who do works that are done with the internet, with videos, but as far as we're concerned, the artwork has to be perfectly reproduced in the perfect colors for the label, and that takes time , and then they are glued to the bottle and put inside a wooden case. The production of the label is a whole process that takes a long time, so when the artist says yes, then we have to have the artwork to reproduce the artwork. I probably didn't notice it because I wasn't part of the process. For example, because my mother told me that Jeff Koons was very sensitive about the reproduction of the silver mark on his label. She never liked it until she finally liked it, but she absolutely had to give the label to print because the wine was waiting. That's why it's so important. It is no longer art for art's sake. It is also consumers who expect their Mouton. I'm not saying they don't like the label or aren't interested, but often the interest in the label isn't at all from consumers. It might be people who are interested in the artists because, of course, with the Internet, the message of the new label is very widespread, and so people who can't afford to buy Mouton, but who are interested in the art can be interested in the new. Tag. But consumers, restaurants, collectors and some exclusive wine shops are waiting for their bottles.


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