Famous South African born artist, William Kentridge. Photo Credit Stella Olivier.

Every year since 1945, a great artist has illustrated the label of Château Mouton Rothschild. Thus, the most famous names in contemporary art are brought together in a collection to which a new work is added each year.

The owners of Mouton, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, gave the commission for the 2016 vintage to the painter, sculptor, video artist and stage director William Kentridge. Born at Johannesburg in South Africa in 1955, William Kentridge is the first internationally renowned artist from the African continent to illustrate a Mouton label. Exhibiting in the world’s leading galleries and the winner of prestigious prizes, he asserts a “political art” that is nevertheless open to both humour and poetry.

In his work for Mouton, The Triumphs of Bacchus, the silhouettes he assembles in a joyful procession are inspired by Bacchic characters from the paintings of great masters from Titian to Matisse, underlining the truth that a great wine, although first and foremost a pleasure, is also inseparable from a cultural tradition which demands respect and moderation – not least Château Mouton Rothschild 2016.

 

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1955, William Kentridge is the first world-famous artist from the African continent to illustrate a Mouton label. The eclectic nature of his studies, combining political science with fine arts and theatre, is reflected in the variety of his tastes and talents. Having started out as an actor and stage director in his home city, to which he has remained faithfully attached, he soon turned to animated drawing and video while refining the technique that would make him famous: charcoal drawings or black-card cutouts projected or stuck on various surfaces, with movement being rendered by the superposition of successive phases. Frequently drawing inspiration from dark times in his country’s recent past, he asserts a “political art” that is nevertheless open to both humour and poetry.

A display of his work at the 1997 Kassel Documenta marked the starting-point for many more exhibitions in prestigious venues ranging from the Venice and São Paulo Biennials and the Louvre in Paris to Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau, MoMA in New York and the Albertina in Vienna. His drawings, videos, sculptures, collages and performances have won numerous international awards, including Japan’s Kyoto Prize and Spain’s Princess of Asturias Award. At the same time he has maintained a brilliant career as an opera director and set designer in Europe and America. His work on Shostakovich’s The Nose, based on a short story by Gogol, was acclaimed from New York to the Aix-en-Provence Festival. More recently, his production The Head and the Load, about Africans who served in Europe during the First World War, was a huge success in London in 2018.

In his work for Mouton, The Triumphs of Bacchus, the silhouettes he assembles in a joyful procession are inspired by Bacchic characters from the paintings of great masters from Titian to Matisse, underlining the truth that a great wine, although first and foremost a pleasure, is also inseparable from a cultural tradition which demands respect and moderation – not least Château Mouton Rothschild 2016!

 

Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild & Camille Sereys de Rothschild. Photo Credit Stefano Scata

MOUTON NE CHANGE

A Bordeaux First Growth, Château Mouton Rothschild comprises 84 hectares (207 acres) of vines at Pauillac in the Médoc, planted with the classic varieties of the region: Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Merlot (16%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (1%).

The estate benefits from exceptionally favourable natural conditions, in the quality of the soil, the position of its vines and their exposure to the sun. Combining a respect for tradition with the latest technology, it receives meticulous attention from grape to bottle from highly skilled winemakers and vinegrowers responsible for each parcel of the estate. The grapes are harvested by hand in small open crates, sorted on vibrating tables and vinified in oak vats with transparent staves, after which the wine is matured in new oak casks.

Brought to the pinnacle by two exceptional people, Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988) then his daughter Baroness Philippine (1933-2014), Mouton Rothschild is also a place of art and beauty, famous for the spectacular vista of its Great Barrel Hall, the Museum of Wine in Art and its collection of precious objects associated with the vine and wine from two millennia, and the magnificent new vat house, inaugurated in 2013.

Mouton Rothschild now belongs to Baroness Philippine’s three children, Camille Sereys de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Chairman and CEO of the family company, Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, which manages the Château, and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Vice-Chairman. United in their commitment to their grandfather’s and mother’s work, all three are determined to perpetuate the celebrated First Growth’s motto, “Mouton ne change” (I, Mouton, do not change), even in the midst of transformation.

 

Specimen label Ch. Mouton Rothschild 2016

PAINTINGS FOR THE LABELS

Every year since 1945, the Château Mouton Rothschild label has been illustrated with an original artwork by a great contemporary painter.

In 1924, to salute his first vintage bottled entirely at the château, Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988), father of Baroness Philippine (1933-2014), 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, Baron Philippe decided to crown the label for the vintage with the “V” for Victory, drawn by the young painter Philippe Jullian. This exceptional circumstance marked the start of a tradition and, every year since 1946, a different artist has been 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; he was followed by the greatest artists of our time, including Dali, César, Miró, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Soulages, Bacon, Balthus, Tàpies and Jeff Koons, forming a fascinating collection to which a new work is added each year.

Mouton’s owners, now Camille and Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, have always been responsible for choosing the artists, respecting their artistic freedom, though many of them have been attracted by themes such as the vine, the pleasure of drinking or the ram, the Mouton emblem. The artists receive no fee for their work but are given cases of Mouton Rothschild, including of course “their” vintage.

In 1981, on Baroness Philippine’s initiative, the collection gave rise to a travelling exhibition, “Mouton Rothschild, Paintings for the Labels”, shown in many museums around the world. It is now on permanent display at Mouton in the superb space created for it by Baroness Philippine in 2013, between the new vat house and the famous Museum of Wine in Art.

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