Picasso chose a Mouton Rothschild, Yoko Ono a vintage chianti. But why do artists love doing wine labels – and can they enhance the quaff? Our writer enters a world where labels are so prized, drinkers get them as tattoos
Here’s a good pub quiz question: what do David Shrigley, Tracey Emin and, er, Prince Charles have in common? The answer is they’ve all painted works of art you can order in a restaurant. Because while a wine bottle may provide only the slenderest of canvases, that hasn’t stopped some of the biggest names in the world of art from daubing something onto the label’s few square inches.
The latest to do so is Olafur Eliasson, the revered Icelandic–Danish environmental artist who created a work for the 2019 vintage of Château Mouton Rothschild – a series of ellipses that form a ring charting the path of the sun in relation to the chateau’s location in Pauillac, south-west France. If you really want to understand the bond between fine art and fine wine, there is no better chateau to start with. Since its first artistic collaboration in 1924, the roll-call of names to grace its bottles is astonishing: Salvador Dalí doodled the winery’s ram emblem for the 1958 vintage, Jeff Koons modified a first-century Roman fresco in 2010 and, four years later, David Hockney provided an empty and full glass.