By Sarah Heller, MW
October 15, 2020
Wine, artwork, nature merge at Hong Kong artwork collectors Allan and Mei Warburg’s Donum property
Wine and artwork make for pure bedfellows. Consider the artwork labels pioneered by Château Mouton Rothschild on the finish of the Second World Struggle, when Baron Philippe started a convention that has seen artists from Miró to Picasso to Jeff Koons paste pictures of their si1gnature items to its bottles. Right now there are numerous winery sculpture parks and wineries that double as galleries world wide, whereas the highest champagne homes have virtually change into curators of their lavish assist of ostentatious exhibitions.
Maybe it’s idealistic to say that artwork and wine are each examples of human striving to attach on a deeper stage with the world round us. However as somebody who has devoted a lot time and like to each topics (earlier than changing into a grasp of wine, I used to be a paint-splattered artwork main at Yale), I imagine the bond is real. Nevertheless, the sheer proliferation of tasks on this area—too lots of them superficial and mercenary—makes me cautious every time I hear about one other “art-wine” idea.
One which was not too long ago dropped at my consideration is Donum, the Sonoma, California property of Danish trend entrepreneur Allan Warburg and his Beijing-born spouse, Mei. The globetrotting pair are well-known in Hong Kong, the place they now reside, as outstanding collectors of Chinese language and worldwide up to date artwork, which they’ve been accumulating since their days foraging the fertile studio scene of early 2000s Beijing. Their foray into vineyard possession is more moderen, formally beginning in 2011 after they bought the decade-old pinot noir property Donum.
A number of years in, they started to rework the property with a proliferation of necessary site-specific sculptures, now about 40 in quantity, together with a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin and a sculpture by Anselm Kiefer, Mohn und Gedächtnis (Poppy and Reminiscence), within the form of an deserted plane.
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The concept opening a vineyard-and-art vacation spot was a savvy enterprise choice attracts a wry chuckle from Warburg, who says, “It makes no industrial sense to put money into all this artwork; then you definitely add the wine…”
To be truthful, the Warburgs’ preliminary choice to buy Donum was rational sufficient. Warburg’s brother Carsten had been Donum’s Danish importer, so Allan appreciated and knew the wine very properly. Once they learnt it was on the market at a really affordable worth, the couple purchased the property out of German receivership with some minority companions sight unseen. It appeared like a promising funding, anticipated to rise appreciably in worth by the point they bought it in 5 to 10 years’ time. The second they visited the roughly 80 windswept, sun-burnished hectares of California dreaminess a few yr later, Warburg notes, “It was not on the market any extra.
Web site Specificity
One of many execs of sculptures is that they will’t assist however work together with their setting. Work grasp inertly on partitions. However sculptures lustily take possession of the area round and inside, letting themselves in flip be colored, shadowed and resurfaced by the atmosphere. Reminiscing about his go to to the property just a few years in the past, Hong Kong-based artwork advisor William Zhao—who collects each artwork and wine—says wistfully, “All the sculptures, you might want to stroll round them. It’s not sufficient to look.”
Warburg himself chooses the place every paintings suits into the winery. Sometimes, he notes, the artist has concepts about the place the piece ought to sit, however typically that is his demesne. And among the purchases have been site-specific commissions, affording the Warburgs the chance to collaborate with artists extra carefully.
“I attempt to simply choose what I like and never be guided by what’s the ‘proper’ factor to do,” he says. “A curator has a duty to lots of different folks; in constructing a non-public assortment we solely have a duty to ourselves.”
Most of the sculptures characteristic the same silvery, reflective floor that makes them nearly vanish into the setting, as an example Love Me, a metallic coronary heart by Richard Hudson or Zhan Wang’s Synthetic Rock. To attract a parallel to wine, the pinot noir vine has a propensity to lap up and replicate again the particularities of its environment within the completed bottle.
Donum’s winemaker, Dan Fishman, speaks of wine as capturing the land’s “power”, one thing he sees in top-level artwork too. He remarks how the Zhan Wang piece—an imprint in chrome steel of a standard Chinese language scholar’s rock—makes him consider the stoniness that characterises the style of the chardonnay they develop in Russian River.
See additionally: An Professional’s Information To Setting Up A Vineyard
East And West
After I ask Zhao what he finds exceptional within the sculpture park at Donum, he shortly responds, “It’s one thing very distinctive to symbolize a group of Chinese language artists and Chinese language tradition within the US like this.”
The Warburgs are clearly cognisant that they, too, embody an Eastmeets-West paradigm that may be addressed in methods which can be both significant or trite. Allan is Danish however has lived in Asia for shut to 3 many years; Mei is Chinese language however Australian-educated. Their kids are rising up in Hong Kong, arguably the quintessential hub the place the 2 cultures meet. Probably the most simple expression of that hybridity at Donum is a sculpture from the Swedish artist Ernst Billgren, The Gate Between East and West, a title that I confess initially had my cynical hackles raised.
However surveying a picture of the piece, an unexpectedly tender tableau of two kindred woodland creatures separated solely by a frail geometrical fence, I’m softened. I’m reminded upon tasting the Donum pinots how related American and Chinese language wine preferences can usually be: the American proclivity for pillowy textures, daring fruit and affable tannins is one thing I see mirrored virtually precisely in mainland China. Donum’s pinots, which Warburg says can simply promote out in US direct-to-consumer channels, aren’t but bought in China however I can readily envision them because the toast of Beijing.
Then there are the labels, specifically commissioned from Ai Weiwei. Every classic options the suitable head from the artist’s well-known collection of 12 bronzes—his interpretations of the zodiac sculptures that when adorned and had been later stolen from the palace at Yuanmingyuan in Beijing.
Though at first I’m confused by the selection of such an overtly Chinese language artist for wines focusing on US shoppers, I later replicate that maybe Ai, who’s nearly alone in western minds because the consultant of Chinese language up to date artwork, is the proper selection. The ceaseless layering of east and west at first makes the pinnacle spin however then regularly settles into a pleasing buzz, an apt metaphor for ingesting pinot.
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Artwork And Nature
The appeal of wine, notably because the emergence of the pure wine motion, relies partially on a fallacy of “naturalness”. What in any case is a winery however a backyard attempting to pose as nature?
“It’s one thing I take into consideration a lot: altering the panorama, shaping it,” says Warburg. “We don’t need it to look an excessive amount of like we’ve modified it, however the truth is we’ve modified it lots to accommodate the artwork.”
A number of items on the Donum Property prod playfully on the fragile boundary between artwork and nature. The varied interpretations of timber right here reference people’ obvious have to pillage, management or cultivate nature, from Douglas White’s politically freighted Black Palm rendered in burnt rubber tyres to Subodh Gupta’s luminous pot-and-pan Banyan tree. Marc Quinn’s monumental bronze bonsai and Pascale Marthine Tayou’s whimsical aluminium and concrete Mikado Tree likewise coexist with precise olive timber, greater than 200 of them that the Warburgs introduced from Sacramento and replanted on the property. “It appears to be like so pure, like they’ve all the time been there,” Warburg says.
Quinn’s The Structure of Life, an outsized bronze seashell, is a paean to nature producing artwork and artwork melting again into nature. It leaves me puzzling over the broadly held assumption that one thing will need to have intention to be artwork (which means that irrespective of how stunning, an actual seashell couldn’t be artwork), whereas in wine it’s virtually an absence of intention that’s fetishised.
For Fishman, winemaking is essentially about deciphering nature, one thing that calls for appreciable expertise with a plot of land. Talking concerning the West Slope Single Winery Pinot Noir, the gem of the property, which is constituted of its oldest vines, he says, “That wine has been made since I used to be first on the property in 2007; it has a transparent voice I perceive.” A key prong of interpretation is tightly regulating high quality, one thing the generosity of the Warburgs offers him scope to do. As an illustration in 2017, with the Warburgs’ blessing, Fishman put aside seven barrels which may have been included within the West Slope, leaving the remaining seven-barrel mix actually distinctive, which to me sounds identical to chiselling a David from the uncooked boulder of nature.
See additionally: Heaven And Earth: Inside The Thoughts Of Japanese Artist Chiho Aoshima
Sarah Heller’s picks from Californian winery and sculpture park Donum Property
Donum Russian River Valley Property Chardonnay 2016
The nostril is pungent with stony discount, although the feeling is broad somewhat than sharp. The palate is oily and beneficiant, addled with pure, golden fruit, however the acid, beginning robust, by no means lets up from begin to end.
Russian River Pinot Noir 2016
Ripe damson, languid and sultry, however nonetheless at its core a vibrant, vibrant purple. Mouthfilling cinnamon and darker brown spices begin to construct from the assault to the again of the palate. Texture may be very wealthy, spherical and smooth.
West Slope Single Winery Pinot Noir 2017
Very intense scarlet. Nostril opens with a refined earthy musk, hints of tiny-leaved, resinous herbs and delicate florals. Heady rose fragrance launched on the assault turns into denser and plumper on the palate with its Turkish delight texture. Tannins are whisper smooth.
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