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January 03, 2013

A Pommery Experience

By Maud Doyle | Art, Wine

Pommery Estate
Photo courtesy of Vranken Pommery

Late last year, 70 highly coveted magnums of Les Clos Pompadour Champagne by Pommery arrived at Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits on Park Avenue. Going for approximately $520 a bottle, the sparkling wine is the only portion of the 3,000 bottles of Les Clos Pompadour produced this year that will reach the United States.

In case you missed it, we recommend heading to the Pommery Estate in Reims, France, where tastings are offered year-round. An unusual, annually developed show of contemporary art also occupies the estate’s historic landscape, with much of the same elegant mischievousness that a magnum of Champagne brings to a party in a Manhattan apartment.

This year Bernard Blistène, director of cultural development at Paris’s Centre Pompidou, curated Expérience Pommery. Rather than using existing works, the estate—under Blistène’s guidance—commissioned artists such as Piero Gilardi, Haim Steinbach, Alicja Kwade, Huang Yong Ping, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Richard Fauguet, Anita Molinero and Davide Balula to create new, site-specific works. Blistène spoke to us about creating a contemporary show in a historic space.

Q: How were you introduced to Expérience Pommery?

A: I followed the Pommery Expériences from the beginning. Each time I was struck not by the audacity, but by the freedom that Nathalie Vranken—wife of Pommery’s proprietor, Paul-François—gives the curators she invites. It seemed to me that one could recognize in that freedom the state of contemporary creation.

Q: What did you enjoy about curating this exhibition?

A: I have organized numerous exhibitions in historical buildings, such as the Château at Chambord or the Conciergerie [the old palace and prison] in Paris, but the cellars in Reims are unique. It goes without saying that the idea of white cube has been questioned for many years—but here you will find, perhaps, its antidote or its opposite. I believe that there is no experience of art without drama, and this place offers a drama that most places with which we’re familiar cannot.

Q: Sculpture parks like Storm King in the United States or Gibbs Farm in New Zealand have grown increasingly popular in recent years—clearly contemporary art loves a landscape. Do you think exhibits on private estates will become more common?

A: After the skepticism—or even moral indignation—that contemporary art generated originally, today it creates curiosity. This is partly due to the influence of institutions like the Centre Pompidou, but also largely because of individuals, at the same time or after Vranken, who realized that art should be shared and taught.

Q: Where were some of your favorite installations?

A: The artists invited to this anniversary exhibit have occupied a lot of corners. Art is in the trees, the rooftops, the staircases—regardez bien!

Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, 505 Park Ave.; 212-838-7500; vrankenpommery.fr.

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