The Rothschild family of Bordeaux first-growth Château Mouton-Rothschild has revealed the original artwork chosen for the 2019 vintage label, an annual tradition since 1945. The 2019 Mouton will feature a label by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, whose Solar Iris of Mouton was recently unveiled at the Palace of Versailles.
The Rothschild siblings—Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Camille Sereys de Rothschild—have a unique relationship with Versailles, born of a long friendship with Versailles president Catherine Pégard, a dedication to philanthropy and a deep love of art. It was at Versailles that Eliasson came to Julien’s attention.
The identity of each year’s artist is a closely guarded secret—not even close family members are told in advance, and Julien, also an art broker, spends countless hours curating the project each year. "He sticks to it with energy, dynamism, tenacity, perservance and, above all, patience and passion," said Philippe, chairman of the supervisory board of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA.
The 2019 label art explores the alliance of sun, wine and Mouton's unique location.
“I have been fascinated by Olafur Eliasson’s work for many years. His wonderful exhibition at Versailles in 2016 was a defining moment for me and I said to myself, ‘One day, if he is willing, Olafur Eliasson will be one of Château Mouton-Rothschild’s artists,’" Julien told Wine Spectator. "His art focuses on the essential, and that is what he has managed to capture for Mouton-Rothschild: time, the round of the seasons and the sun at the center of everything, treated here in the form of a diagram.”
“Solar Iris of Mouton is a map of all the sunsets and sunrises that take place over a year at Château Mouton-Rothschild,” said Eliasson. “Depicting each hour of daylight and nighttime that goes into the growing of the grapes, it is a kind of signature for the vineyard, telling us something about the conditions in which the wine grew and the intimate relationship between the wine and its location."
This relationship, closely tied to our notion of terroirs and vintage, creates a unique wine each year, which Eliasson interpreted as a “fingerprint" for the soil, the ripening of the fruit and the sun's influence in this cyclical relationship.
"Tasting the wine connects us to the local environment, to the soil, and to the particular weather, seasons and lighting of the place," said Eliasson. "Visible through the eye-like oculus at the center of the label, the wine contains the golden sun, the earth and the sky; it is local and it simultaneously bears a trace of the celestial."
The label illustration is divided into two parts, with the upper part golden for sunlight and the lower part a dark blue for night. This frames an oculus, representing Château Mouton-Rothschild, and an analemma, or diagram of the sun’s path, records the position of the sun at Mouton at the same time every day of the year.
Eliasson works in sculpture, painting, photography, film and digital media, and his work has been exhibited by leading museums around the globe. In 2016, Eliasson's exhibition at the Palace of Versailles included a series of interventions that deployed mirrors and light, fog and water meant to intensify feelings of impermanence and transformation.
"[Eliasson] is, we believe, a bright shining sun whose works of art illustrate and enlighten our lives and our vision of today's world," said Julien.
This month, in conjunction with the label reveal, Sotheby's auctioned a collection of 2019 Mouton bottles, raising more than $180,000 for Institut Bergonié cancer research foundation. The lot included a double magnum, its label signed by Olafur Eliasson and the family, as well as six bottles, three magnums, a 6-liter imperial and a 15-liter nebuchadnezzar.
The family's patronage of world-class artists in connection with Mouton-Rothschild was started by their grandfather, Baron Philippe, and has included labels by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, César, Salvador Dalí, Keith Haring and Jeff Koons.
This exceptional art collection is on display at Mouton's Museum of Wine in Art; artist, designer and scenographer Hubert Le Gall is currently reconceiving the exhibition, to be re-opened in 2022.
The Versailles connection goes further: A handful of the artists who have designed Mouton artwork have also exhibited at Versailles, which inspired a three-part fundraiser auction held in 2019, at which 75 lots of a bottle each of Mouton’s five Versailles artist labels raised $2.7 million for restorations at Versailles and for the rebuilding of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.
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