Many cognac brands invest contemporary art through sponsorship, marketing or simply for pleasure. Installations, street art, design, architecture… When art and Cognac are blending.
An American street artist giving free rein to his imagination to work on decanters. A giant lime-washed installation filling a foundation space. A unique example of an Advent calendar made of oak, with the chocolates replaced by little bottles of brandy. … No, this is not Brooklyn, but Cognac, where the great cognac houses have a special interest in contemporary creations. “It’s interesting to confront a timeless product that hasn’t changed in decades with the current zeitgeist”, explains Cécile François, director of institutional communication for the House of Hennessy. “And who better than artists could absorb this spirit?”
Hennessy is currently engaged in a variety of collaborations of all sorts. Although the house seeks out underground street artists like JonOne, Futura 2000 or tattoo artist Scott Campbell to imagine labels for its VS cognac, it also recruits designers like Mark Newson to reinterpret the XO decanter, which the superstar designer chose to dress with Plexiglas. Even more daring, artist Jean-Michel Othoniel designed la Beauté du siècle, an extraordinarily sophisticated baroque casket for the hundredth birthday of Kilian Hennessy, born in 1907.
Elsewhere in the town, the house of Martell established very close artistic ties when it opened the doors of its foundation in October 2016. Inaugurated with the gigantic pavilion by Spanish architects José Selgas and Lucìa Cano, specialists in translucent structures open to the exterior, the place inspired Vincent Lamouroux, winner of the Prix Ricard in 2006, who transformed the space into an unknown planet: visitors can thus wander through his Par nature installation between palm trees dotted among the 210 m3 of lime-washed sand.
Nathalie Viot, director of the foundation, is delighted to announce that “Cognac is becoming a new cultural destination,” based on the artistic dynamism of the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments. “We particularly wish to highlight and nurture young talent in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region: the W110 workshop installed its swings here, 71 bis organized a parade with employees of the House, and the Oseraie de l’Ile demonstrated all its wickerwork know-how…”
Not far away, the house of Renault unveiled a very unexpected Advent calendar in late 2017: an oak plate with, suspended from it, the 24 brandies that make up the cognacs of the brand. “For this exceptional piece, Renault consulted the artisans of the Drevelle workshop, who made the frame and the twenty-four miniature cases, each containing a little bottle of cognac”, explains Jérôme Durant, director of Renault. The calendar was put up for sale as a unique product and the proceeds will go to the Compagnons du Devoir organization to promote the transmission of know-how, though “the work has not yet found a buyer” confessed Jérôme Durand.
For Meukow, although the Espace Guyenne, a magnificent converted mirror factory, welcomes local painters and photographers, the acquisition of a Steinway piano has shifted the focus to music. The piano is now proudly displayed in the Chai Meukow restaurant. “I always wanted to bring music into this space with its amazing acoustics,” enthuses Marie-Laure Brugerolle, deputy general manager of the house. “Although we started out with classical music, we are also open to jazz, and the creations of chef Julien Lachenaud sometimes chime with the music played by visiting musicians. The company is a living space and I find it hard to imagine life without art.”
The house of Hine’s approach is based on a partnership with the Royal College of Art in London “Every year since 2011, we have awarded the Hine Prize to an artist graduating from the college” comments Margje Pruim from the marketing and communication department of the venerable house founded in 1763. “We purchase the winning piece and exhibit it here in our offices and then invite the winner to work on the envelope for our H by Hine limited edition which is sold between October and December.” David Schroeter, winner of the prize in2016, adapted The Willow Tree, one of his luminous works inspired by his favorite tree under his window in Brooklyn. In 2017 the prize went to Jade Fadojutimi. But we will have to wait until September 2018 to see how she dresses the H by Hine envelope. An amazing marriage that symbolizes and translates the constant effort of cognac houses to blend tradition with an ever-more-creative contemporaneous spirit.