How Wine Became Modern

How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now-SFMOMA
Judgment of Paris, image courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Last year, when writing about an exciting collection of art at the di Rosa Museum in Napa, (see, "No Wine, Nonetheless, A Phenomenal Experience, thought2form-living creatively), I had no idea I would be writing about another museum in northern California and its exhibition about wine and its relationship to Napa, this year.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is currently presenting a show dealing with the culture of wine over the past three decades and its close association to the visual arts, graphic and industrial arts, performing arts, architecture and cinema (details, below).
From the press release, Mr. Henry Urbach, one of the organizers of the exhibition, states, "In many ways, wine has become "modern" as it has re-imagined its own representation and joined itself to other forms of culture."
While the di Rosa Museum collection draws upon artists from northern California, the SFMOMA exhibition begins in Napa, California, with wine as its subject, draws upon the relationship of wine to art and design, and conceptually displays it within the context of art.
Wine, always considered a  noteworthy beverage, was etched into mass consciousness with the Paris Judgment of 1976, and evolved into something to be studied, tasted and described, to be written about and commented upon the world over. Wine is discussed and critiqued in terms unique to its culture, all to judge quality - and to create a dialogue - no different than with any other work of art. As wine linked itself to various forms of art, it "became modern", as stated by Mr. Urbach. In becoming modern, it evolved and changed, similar to artistic movements, where rebellion is essential as it refers to the past in creation of the new.
In this exhibition, wine is much more than an accompaniment to food. And while the exhibition organizers chose to focus on this particular beverage, we must not forget that food has also evolved into art, starting in the 60s and 70s. Think Julia Child and Alice Waters, both California-grown, French-trained food pioneers.
With the current publication of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, food has evolved into a modernist cultural phenomenon. It, too, has evolved beyond meat and potatoes to art form. So, while we might ask the question, "Why wine?" - I suppose we might follow with, "Why not wine?" And if also asking the question, "Why wine in a museum of modern art" - the response is the same.
Pop Artists brought the mundane image and object into galleries and museums in the fifties and sixties (Duchamp, earlier) - with mass-production and advertising as theme. Everyday objects were rethought and recreated and the commonplace became iconic. The Campbell's Soup can, Marilyn Monroe, and comic strips were all taken as the subject of work by famous artists. So, presenting a product within the hallowed halls of a museum and examining it in terms of its relationship to the arts is not much different; albeit without the irony and parody of the Pop Art movement.
The overall exhibition is divided into a number of areas, including The Judgment of Paris, Terroir, Worldwide Wine and Modern Production, Terroir and Technique, Label Wall, Glassware and Architecture and Toursim.
Below, we list the categories with descriptions. However, as we close this post, we would like to touch upon wine's link to architecture. Starting in the Napa Valley and stretching out beyond California to other wine making regions, worldwide, contemporary architects were commissioned to design bold and challenging temples to wine. These intriguing buildings tie innovation to tradition and act as elegant advertisements promoting both tourism and sales. At SFMOMA, we find luminaries such as Santiago Calatrava (La Rioja, Bodegas Ysios), Zaha Hadid (Tondonia Winery Pavillion), Michael Graves (Clos Pegase) and Frank Gehry (Wine complex, Marques de Riscal) included. 
As we wait for the future exhibition, "How Food Became Modern", we commend SFMOMA for producing such an elegant show - not a bad idea for a museum to showcase a product central to agriculture in a state where wine is revered and collected worldwide.

Photographs:(Top left: Frank O. Gehry, Hotel Marques de riscal, Top right: Michael Graves, Clos Pegase Winery, 1987; image courtesy Michael Graves, Bottom left: Zahia Hadid, R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia, 2006, Image: Pepe Franco, Courtesy of Vina Tondonia, Bottom right: Santiago Calatrava, Ysios, 2001; image: Inigo Bujedo, courtesy Ysios Winery)

The exhibition is organized into the following:
•Entrance: New commissioned work by Peter Wegner, charting over 200 house paint colors related to wine.
•The Judgment of Paris: The two winning wine bottles and the original Time Magazine article are presented. A life-size photomural by Diller Scofidio + Renfro of a reenacted Judgment of Paris - with actors in period dress - reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci's, The Last Supper.
Terroir: A presentation of the unique qualities of vineyard soil and climate. Seventeen global vineyards are represented - using soil samples and data, along with climate date, featuring temperature and humidity in "real" time.
Terroir Gallery, image courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Worldwide Wine: Robert Gerard Pietrusko and Stewart Smith illustrate key shifts in the production and consumption of wine for the past 30 years.
Modern Production: Includes Nicolas Boulard's sculpture, Nuancier Finement Boise (Shades of Wood), a Mitch Epstein photograph of the Opus Winery lab, and a vitrine filled with contemporary wine-making products.
Terroir and Technique: A Diller Scofidio + Renfro projection, featuring "multi-spectral aerial photography and remote sensing technology" used to map the growth and disease of vines - developed by Robert Mondavi Winery and NASA in the 1990s.
Label Wall: Organized in narrative categories, 200 contemporary wine labels are presented. Categories include, Good + Evil, Cheeky, etc.
Glassware: Including glassware, decanters, etc. Installation by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with an enormous vitrine, feeding its contents into approximately 30 suspended wine glasses.
Etienne Meneau, Carafe No. 5, 2008, fabricated 2009

Architecture and Tourism: Installation relating to wine-relating design by signature architects, globally - including building by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, among others.
Taste and Popular Culture: Among other elements, "a large vitrine houses an extensive range of material to address three themes: tastemaking wine education, and wine on the go."
Smell Wall: Diller Scofidio + Renfro installation, allowing visitors to enjoy the fragrance of wine, "while learning about the education of the nose."
Smell Wall, image courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Coda: While exiting, viewers encounter a work by "smell artist", Sissel Tolaas, a commissioned site specific work, capturing the aroma of a full bottle of a so-called, perfect wine - one of the wines awarded 100 points by Robert Parker in 1976.

Organized by Henry Urbach, SFMOMA's Helen Hilton Raiser, Curator of Architecture and Design and developed in close collaboration with interdisciplinary artists/architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Special thanks to Libby Garrison, Acting Director of Communications, SFMOMA
November 20, 2010 to April 17, 2011

SFMOMA website
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Slate website: The Judgment of Paris
Chateau Montelena Winery
Stags Leap Winery


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