Château Mouton Rothschild is almost as well known for the artists it asks to design its labels, a tradition that started in 1945, as it is for its wine. Today it announced that the Japanese artist, Chiharu Shiota, will design the label for Mouton Rothschild 2021, placing her in the company of artists including Picasso, Miró, Chagall, Bacon and Warhol.
Born in Osaka in 1972, Shiota has seen her performances and installations staged at institutions worldwide, including the Hammer Museum in LA, the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2019), the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (2014) and the National Museum of Art, Osaka (2008). She represented Japan at the 56th Venice Biennale.
The 2021 label depicts a small figure facing a bunch or bundle of imperfect, circular shapes in red hues. These may be a symbol for grapes, an allusion to nature or wine, or perhaps something more evasive. ‘The four lines connecting the human to the environment represent the four seasons (winter, spring, summer, autumn) and all the emotions linked to them (solitude, hope, achievement),’ Shiota suggests.
The artist is preoccupied with the imperfections in memory and consciousness. She is best known for her vast webs that span rooms in which ordinary objects such as shoes, keys, beds, chairs and dresses are suspended. These works allude to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: the wisdom of imperfection. They strike a witty balance between beauty and mundanity. This preoccupation explains why she took on the commission. ‘When I visited Château Mouton Rothschild, I was very inspired by their relationship with nature. They depend on the weather and do not interfere with Mother Nature. They accept the conditions in which the grapes grow. I think Mouton is holding on to the balance of human and nature,’ she says.
This has a particular resonance for viniculture. Wine can be understood as a portal to the conditions in which the grapes were grown. For Shiota, ‘it is like preserving the memory of the year in the wine. I find this very fascinating because I also believe that the objects that surround us accumulate our memories and existence.’
Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, who finds and works with the artists for the label designs, says: ‘I was fascinated by Chiharu Shiota’s vision, so close to the world of wine, especially in the relationship between humankind and nature, fragile and fertile, generous but unpredictable. And then there is that bright red colour, one of her trademarks, so reminiscent of new wine running out of the vats.’
The work itself, Universe of Mouton (2023), will be added to the Paintings for the Labels gallery at Château Mouton Rothschild, where it will remind drinkers of the natural processes at the heart of Mouton Rothschild’s winemaking and the origins of this exceptional wine.