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Bordeaux for art lovers

There's more to Bordeaux than just wine, especially for art lovers. There are some spectacular exhibitions in various châteaux and their grounds across the region. Here's a pick of the best to visit this year.

Here are seven Bordeaux properties that share their passion for art and their wine all year long – addresses art lovers should not miss.

1) The Pioneer

Château Mouton Rothschild is famous for bringing art and wine together with their prized bottles featuring labels painted and designed by famous artists.

Baron Philippe introduced the idea for the 1924 vintage, which was the first time a commercial artist was commissioned to create a wine label.  The artwork by poster artist Jean Carlu was printed on the label but as it was not well received, the project was shelved until 1945 when he once again commissioned an artist to create a commemorative label to mark the end of the war – Philippe Jullian ‘The Year of Victory’.

The estate has since invited a different artist to create a label for every new vintage. In 1958 it was Salvador Dalí, 1973: Pablo Picasso, 1990: Francis Bacon and 2014: David Hockney.

With the opening of Mouton Rothschild’s majestic new cellars in 2013, art lovers can visit the ‘Painting for the Labels’ exhibition that brings together all the original artworks for the labels with the explanation behind the inspiration. Often different art works proposed by each artist are also on show.

Scottish artist Peter Doig was chosen to illustrate the label of its 2020 vintage with a work that subtly pays tribute to the vineyard workers.

For the 2021 label, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota was chosen and created a work named ‘Universe of Mouton’.

For more information visit: chateau-mouton-rothschild.com

The 1975 vintage label of Château Mouton Rothschild by Andy Warhol. Credit: Château Mouton Rothschild

2) Contemporary

There’s a light-hearted introduction to art as soon as you arrive at Château de Ferrand in St-Emilion. A huge sculpture of a chewed pen top by Julien Gudéa welcomes you to the property.

Owned by the Bich family, creators of the Bic pens, razors and so much more, over 30 works from their private Bic Art collection are shown at the property, all inspired by or created with Bic pens and ink.

The walls of the estate’s tasting room feature a mural created with a BIC ballpoint pen by artist Alexandre Doucin depicting the surrounding landscapes.

For more information visit: chateadeferrand.com

Credit: Château de Ferrand

3) Famous names

Château Malromé, in the south of the Entre-deux-Mers, has changed its name to Château Toulouse-Lautrec-Malromé reflecting its artistic history. In 1883, this 43 ha estate in the commune Saint-André-du-Bois was purchased by the Comtesse Adèle de Toulouse-Lautrec and became home to its most famous resident, her son, the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

In 2013, the Huynh family bought the vineyard and completely renovated the cellars and the château, opening a restaurant and guest rooms. To mark the name change, a tour and exhibition takes visitors back in time to discover the links between wine and the famous works of the artist. His original 19th century apartments have been perfectly preserved for visitors to discover his life at the château, including private evening visits and dinners, with wine of course.

For more information visit: chateautoulouslautrec.com

Credit: Château Toulouse-Lautrec-Malromé / www.oliverfritze.com

4) Back to nature

At Château Smith Haut Lafitte, owners Florence and Daniel Cathiard, share their eclectic array of 27 sculptures in the vines and the château. The collection has been growing ever since they purchased the classified growth of the Graves in 1990.

Three emblematic pieces are; the Venus overlooking the vineyard, a signature bronze hare ‘Hospitality’ by Barry Flanagan, appropriately placed in front of the five-star hotel Les Sources de Caudalie, and W.A de Wang DU represents a crumpled newspaper embodying the ambiguity and ephemeral nature of contemporary media. Look closely, the paper just happens to be a page from the Wine Advocate.

In 2017, they opened a 10ha open air museum; The Forest of the Five Senses which includes a land and art trail  ‘Land Art’ installation hidden in the woods between Château Smith Haut Lafitte and neighbouring Château Le Thil, part of Les Sources de Caudalie.

A showcase for both young artists and the importance of nature, it includes contemporary artworks and sound installations, mainly by local Bordeaux artists. Pieces include ‘The Vortex’ by Durante and Segond, a giant spider web of stainless steel hanging between two trees as well as well as an ear trumpet over a stream that amplifies the sounds of bubbling water. There’s also a nod towards the Cathiards’ past ski champion career with Gulliver’s Skis by Cyrille Menei.

For more information visit: smith-haut-lafitte.com

Château Smith Haut Lafitte’s Forest of the Five Senses art path. Credit: www.visitfrenchwine.com

5) Integration

A striking example of a permanent art show in the Médoc is Château d’Arsac, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur in Margaux. In the 19th century it was one of the largest Médoc estates, with 250ha of vines. When Philippe Raoux purchased it in 1986, it was in ruins with only 3ha in production. Everything needed rebuilding.

The inspiration behind linking wine, vines and art came from a visit by The Peter Stuyvesant Foundation. Together they organised an art festival and the 1989 harvest was brought in under the watchful eye of works of art. They continued these art festivals until 1996.

In 1992, Arsac started curating its own contemporary collection. It has grown with the vineyard and now counts 30 pieces. The vines fund the art, each vintage sees a new work inspired by an event or idea at the estate.

The oversized flowerpot ‘Le Pot Rouge’ by Raynaud, represents the vineyard as a vine garden. In 2002, the artist Jean-Michel Folon, stayed at the estate and the picture he drew in the visitors’ book is now reproduced as a mural in the barrel cellar.

In 1995, the vineyard was promoted to the Margaux appellation, the purchase of French sculptor Bernard Pagès’ ‘La Déjetée’ symbolises this upward trajectory, of the property. Whereas ‘La Diagonale’, a large metal girder resting on the chateau, illustrates the continual ‘work in progress’ to constantly improve the vineyard and the wines.

In 2021, they introduced a new art form. ‘Si Arsac m’était chanté’ is a light hearted musical visit – 11 different ‘tableaux’ and a film projected in the wine making and barrel cellars take you on a magical mystery tour of art and the art of wine.

For more information visit: chateau-arsac.com

Credit: Château d’Arsac

6) Château Chasse Spleen

Céline Villars-Foubet and her husband Jean-Pierre took over this family property in 2000. Passionate about art, in 2017, they opened a contemporary art centre in the elegant 18th century ‘chartreuse’ to share art alongside their wines. Permanent works include those by; Felice Varini, Benoit Maire, Liam Gillick Patrick Neu, Morgane Tschiember, Vincent Ganivet, Pierre Labat, Anita Molinero, Guzman and Paeve, Ann Veronica Janssens and Lilian Bourgeat. Céline is an architect and landscaper, and the site reflects this with the water mirror running through the park and the impressive giant wellington boots that welcome you as you drive up to the château.

Just like a vintage, every year is a new story, hosting the works of a different artist alongside their private collection. There’s a wine bar on the terrace and three guests rooms should art and wine fans want to linger.

The art centre is open from Thursdays to Mondays (open during public holidays) 11 am to 6pm. Entry is free.

For more information visit: art.chasse-spleen.com.

Château Chasse-Spleen’s Centre d’Art. Credit: Château Chasse-Spleen

7) Bordeaux city

Château Labottière is a beautiful 18th century neoclassical house right in the centre of Bordeaux city. It may not produce wine but it is owned by Bernard Magrez, French wine magnate with more than 40 vineyards across Bordeaux and the world.

Restored in 2011, this classified monument is home to the Bernard Magrez Cultural Institute, a platform for artists in residence, exhibitions of contemporary art and workshops for artists and future artists, young and old.

The current exhibit is called ‘La Beauté Sauvera le Monde’ – Beauty Will Save The World. It is a dialogue between artists and iconic works from the beginning of the 20th to the end of the 21st century including those by Yang Yongliang , Philippe Cognée, Rancinan, Livio Bendetti, Dan Hays , Pae White, Xavier Veilhan, Barthi Kher, Moataz Nasr, Paul Almasy, Jean-François Rauzier and many others. Curation was carried out by the Cultural Institute in partnership with Audry Liseron-Monfils, director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts Bordeaux.

For more information visit: institut-bernard-magrez.com.

The work of Jofo will be on display at Bernard Magrez this summer. Credit: www.en.institut-bernard-magrez

Planning ahead for 2024

The third edition of the BAD+ Art fair which takes place in Hanger 14 on the Bordeaux quay returns again in 2024 from May to June.

As well as housing the contemporary art and design exhibition in Bordeaux city, last year it also partnered with châteaux spanning the Left and Right Banks to spread art from the city into the vines. Last year’s participating estates included;

Credit: BAD+ Art fair

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