A special guest has been invited to sit at the Taittinger family table: the art world. An influence that both forms part of the House’s landscape and made the creation of the Taittinger Collection possible in the first place. Over the years, 13 artists from the contemporary art scene have collaborated with the House to decorate its most prestigious vintages, each one reflecting their own work. More than simply bottles – a whole gallery.
Before we taste, we look with our eyes. Champagne is a delight for the taste buds, and while we can admire both its robe and the effervescence of its bubbles once poured into a flute, this is not so much the case when the liquid is still in the bottle. As a result, the bottle must serve as the perfect reflection of its elixir, particularly when it comes to vintages. This is a major undertaking, but rather than bottles merely acting as aesthetically pleasing containers, it is important for the Taittinger family that they convey the values of sharing and celebrating as well as the spirit of openness instilled in its members. Since 1983, the surface of glass has thus been adorned with contemporary artists’ creations, making the bottle a base of inspiration for its designer and the vehicle for various forms of expression.
The world of artists
The idea originated in the early 1950s when Claude Taittinger, son of founder Pierre Taittinger, first visited the United States to showcase the family’s champagne. While on the trip he met Rudy Kopf, who later became the brand’s business partner for cross-Atlantic distribution. “In the world of tomorrow, there will only be room for giants and artists. Which of the two shall it be for Taittinger champagne?” he asked Pierre at the time. “Artists!” he replied. An honest and unequivocal answer that would seal the alliance between Taittinger and the arts throughout the development of the champagne brand. Daughter and father Vitalie and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, President and Honorary Chairman respectively, both harbour this passion for the artistic community today, interweaving it into the brand’s DNA on a daily basis.
Victor Vasarely kickstarted the project in 1983. A true cultural icon at the time, the artist was particularly famous for his disturbing visual effects, playing tricks with both geometry and the viewer’s retinas. He managed to create movement through illusion, and in this respect paved the way for optical, then cinematic, art. He cloaked the 1978 vintage in a layer of gold, adorned with a trompe l’oeil label with oval shapes which become increasingly larger in size as an invisible bubble pushes them out of the bottle. The first edition of a series of 13 creations, with the latest entrusted to the care of Franco-Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado in 2016 for the 2008 vintage. It may be the youngest but it lacks nothing in character – the front of the bottle features a leopard’s gaze, mirrored in the reflection of the water that the creature is drinking from. This black and white shot was taken in the Barab River Valley in Damaraland, Namibia, and is one of the artist’s tributes to nature and the planet. A highly topical theme which again provides the House with a means of conveying its ideas through the presentation of its champagne.
Fragments of works
From optical art to photography, there has been a wide range of formats and media across the 13 collaborations to paint a portrait of contemporary creation since the late 20th century. This is a collection without borders, as the Taittinger family has called on artists from all over the globe: France, Hungary, Portugal, Germany, Japan, Chile, China and Senegal, to name but a few. In 1990 the American Roy Lichtenstein brought solid royal blue texture to the 1985 vintage bottle. A symbol of pop art, it depicts a face sprinkled all over with Benday (or Ben-Day) dots to evoke both prints from advertising posters and a comic strip style. Next to the face, bubbles sparkle all the way to the mouth, and an imposing vine serves to remind us of the importance of the terroir and of working the land. Meanwhile, the abstract work of Beijing-born Zao Wou-Ki from 2003 transports us to a world of lyricism and tenderness. His design for the 1998 vintage features a field of sea-green lines stretching out into shades of blue. While on this occasion the symbols have no tangible reference point, they draw on our poetry and inspire a sense of freshness within. Here perhaps a dragonfly, and there the sun at its zenith to crown this nature-filled scene. Fragments of each artist’s works, also featuring Arman, André Masson, Vieira da Silva, Hans Hartung, Toshimitsu Imaï, Corneille, Matta, Robert Rauschenber and Amadou Sow. To be discovered not on walls, but in the Taittinger Collection.