Alchemy and metaphysical invisible connections are central to Rebecca Horn’s oeuvre of exhibitions and spatial installations, performance, film, sculpture, drawings and photographs. So it is no surprise that her collaboration with the Vendemmia d’Artista project of Italian wine producer Tenuta dell’Ornellaiais metaphorically concerned to capture the essence of a particular vintage, where each bottle becomes a work of art in its own right and suggests the alchemical energy of the wine. The Vendemmia d’Artista aims to reestablish the tradition and value of Renaissance artistic patronage in a modern key, with a five-year programme of commissions, curated by Bartolemeo Pietromarchi and Maria Alicata. Each year an artist is introduced to create limited edition wine bottles and a permanent work in the winery that captures the essence of the wine, the nature of the vintage, and its personality – named after the quality of the vintage – Exuberance, Harmony and Energy.
For the 2008 vintage, L’Energia, the 9-litre Salmanazar was treated like a kinetic sculptural object made for her installations, suggesting metaphors relating to mythical, historical, literary and spiritual imagery. The bottle resembles an orrery with elements of copper spiral, cones and mirrors, to create an alchemical magnetic energy. In total, fourteen large-format bottles of 2008 Ornellaia – a Salmanazar, three imperials and ten Double Magnums were interpreted by the artist. A sculpture for Ornellaia’s barrique hall consists of interwoven copper arms and mirrors “that envelopes the space like the arms of an Oriental divinity, while an interplay of mirrors, like watchful eyes, observes the alchemy that guides the wine as it rests.” Glass funnels below the sculpture are filled with wine that as it evaporates, leaves shadowy traces of its passing and a drawing of its presence.
In 2009 the Italian artist Luigi Ontani interpreted the theme of Esuberanza and also created a series of allegorical ceramic column fountain sculptures to symbolize the four seasons represented through flowers, wheat, grapes and walnuts placed at the entrance to the winery. For New York in 2010, Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, created labels on the theme of Harmonia. Amer created an iron frame with the phrase Happily Ever After as a garden installation for the Tenuta dell’Ornellaia estate.
The patronage element within the project involves high profile gala dinners and international locations with benefit auctions of large format bottles with labels and additions designed by the artist. In three editions of Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista over €500.000 has been raised to benefit the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, a 19th century collection of Renaissance paintings and decorative arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Rebecca Horn’s designs for Ornellaia 2008 raised €130,000 from the auction of nine lots of including €40,000 for a single salmanazar at Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie with proceeds donated to the Friends of the Neue Nationalgalerie. For 2012 the Vendemmia d’Artista vintage of 2009, will feature the Chinese artist, Zhang Huan with the theme of L’Equilibrio (Equilibrium).
The allegorical message of the Triumph of Bacchus and thecrowning of the poet inspired by winein paintings by Titian and Annibale Caracci, is appropriate for the collaboration of contemporary art with Luxe, Calme and Volupté – luxury, peace, and sensual pleasure.