Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and Jeff Koons.
NEW YORK - Those of us who love both wine and art—count me a charter member of that club—are always interested to see which artist is next in the series of label designers for Château Mouton Rothschild, the famed first-growth Bordeaux.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild was a prescient marketing genius, to say the very least, for deciding, way back in 1945, to have a different contemporary artist do the label of his grand vin each year. This was before the days when seemingly every wine, and every other luxury product, had to conceive of some kind of art and design tie-in. The baron was a force of nature in many ways, managing to get Mouton upgraded to first-growth status in the 1970s, a feat never achieved before or since.
His daughter Baroness Philippine de Rothschild carries on the tradition ably these days, and the series has included a truly staggering lineup over nearly seven decades: Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Balthus, Henry Moore, Joan Mirò, Pablo Picasso, Robert Motherwell…the list goes on.
At the end of last year, Rothschild—a former actress and eternal bon vivant—announced her selection for the 2010 vintage: Jeff Koons. It makes perfect sense, these two natural impresarios embracing each other.
“I was very thrilled to be involved,” Koons told me earlier this week. “It was a nice project, and I enjoyed the aspect of the artists in that lineup—I’m excited to be part of that history.”
The Jeff Koons-designed label for the 2010 vintage.
His design is based on an actual Pompeian fresco scene of Venus on her shell, overlaid with some Koonsian graffiti of a sun and a sailboat. “It’s interesting that the figure was modeled on the person considered the most beautiful woman in the ancient world,” Koons told me. Lately his work has been delving into classical themes: the Antiquity Series, he calls it. And the ancients were very clear on their love of wine.
With the Koons label, the Baroness has struck gold again, giving all of us a little thrill at her daring, and something to talk about. But I admire her priorities, too—she’s not about to give up what has made Mouton truly collectible all these years. A few years back, I interviewed her about the series.
“The bottom line is that the only thing that matters is what’s inside the bottle,” she told me. “If the wine is bad, the label means nothing.”
True, judging a book by its cover and all. I shall ponder that over a glass or four of the 2010 Mouton if I can get my hands on some.