The owners of Bordeaux first-growth Château Mouton-Rothschild—Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild—have unveiled the label for the 2018 vintage, created by contemporary Chinese artist and writer Xu Bing.
"When I discovered Xu Bing, I was captivated by him as an inventor of signs endowed with incredible poetic power," Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild told Unfiltered. "And then I said to myself that our labels were also signs, each work of art referring to a year: the 1973 vintage can also be called the ‘Picasso Mouton’, just as the 2018 vintage will be called the ‘Xu Bing Mouton.’”
The artwork is a form of “square word calligraphy”—and what is that, you might well ask?
"It is a language invented by Xu Bing which consists in rewriting the Latin alphabet, giving it the appearance of traditional Chinese characters. It means that paradoxically we Westerners can understand the language whereas the Chinese can’t!" explained de Beaumarchais de Rothschild. "That being said, we also need to be able to decode it, which is not self-evident: when Xu Bing sent me his artwork for Mouton, I showed it to my family who, believing it to be Mandarin, did not immediately understand it … I saw decoding this ‘square word calligraphy’ as a task or a pleasure similar to that experienced by lovers of fine wines, who also gradually discover the aromas and flavors of the wine in their glass—a Mouton 2018, for example!"
Xu first visited the Mouton estate in 2013. "I have long been aware of the close connection between Château Mouton-Rothschild and art," said Xu. "So when Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild contacted me to illustrate the label for the vintage 2018, I took it as both an honor and an opportunity to pay tribute."
Xu's works have been exhibited at the British Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among many others. Some of his most celebrated works include monumental sculptures and installations such as Book from the Sky and Background Stories.
What makes Xu stand out as a unique talent? "The fact that, like all great artists, he seems to have an overarching artistic vision and uses a variety of techniques to pursue it, including painting, sculpture, video and installations,” said de Beaumarchais de Rothschild. “That vision consists in transforming and magnifying the ordinary, or even the trivial, to give it the beauty and dignity of a work of art. For me, Xu Bing is both a poet and an alchemist: an alchemist because he turns base matter into gold and a poet because he feeds our dreams from the reality of everyday life."
And for anyone looking to add a little of that Xu alchemy to their own wine collection this year, pre-arrival bottles of 2018 Mouton-Rothschild are selling for about $600 a bottle—not all that bad, considering Xu’s calligraphy works regularly fetch six figures at auction.
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