It’s hard to define an artist like Liu Bolin given his experience and the variation of his work. He belongs to the generation of artists whose creations are intertwined with a changing China. “When I began my research into Ruinart, I learned about the unique know-how of the world’s oldest champagne house and the exceptional beauty of the historic place”.
Liu Bolin stayed for more than 10 days at Maison Ruinart in Reims, and revealed the invisible imprint of human labour through eight images. «I was impressed by the team’s expertise and how the surrounding natural resources are put to use in the production of champagne. From the vineyards to the chalk cellars, Ruinart winemakers draw the best from nature without causing harm. I wanted to use this series to showcase their work.»
Hiding in the Blanc de Blancs crayère
"The beauty and majesty of this place intrigued me instantly. There are almost 30 metres of empty space above your head when you walk into this chalk cellar. You get a striking sense of time and history here. I loved the delicacy of how the human hand works its magic, with the manual riddling techniques [ancestral know-how that takes years of training to learn]. The complexity and light inside the cellars have a confusing impact on colours, so this photo was a major challenge. However, I particularly love the result, which required two long days spent painting."
Hiding in Mucha posters
"The relationship I have with art is essential for my work. In the past, I've worked on canvases by Van Gogh or Picasso. More recently, I collaborated with JR in New York, and in front of his collage at the Pyramide du Louvre. Alphonse Mucha [the first artist with whom Ruinart created a collaboration in 1896] is a key figurehead in Art Nouveau, and I felt some very powerful emotions when I worked on this image."
"This space caught my attention, because it is a passage. It leads down inside the earth, from the soil and vineyards to the cellars and production area. It's the connection between the crop and the production of champagne. I love transitional spaces. They are very informative. For the first time, I changed my position by reaching out with my arms. It gives the image another dimension."
Lost in Blanc de Blancs bottles
"I think this was the most difficult photograph I have ever produced. Because I had to paint both the front and the back of my body due to the mirrors and the reflections, which is a first for me. Frédéric Panaïotis assisted me with this image, which is the last in the series that began in the vineyards. There is a loss of bearings in this photo that I love most of all. You wonder what you are seeing, and if it is reality or a projection of reality. That's how the Maison Ruinart draws you in."
The secret crayère
"When I visited the Ruinart chalk cellars, I found ancient inscriptions that echoed the past history of the brand, which goes back almost 300 years. Having started out as a sculptor, the date (1898) and the word (Classe) which are etched into the wall struck me immediately. I then decided to paint my left arm, the one I use to create, with the chalk I found on the floor there. It was a way of drawing the champagne from its history."
Hiding in the gyropalettes with Pablo
"Riddling was originally performed by hand, then these enormous gyropalettes-riddling machines were introduced to relieve employees of that burden. Pablo, a Ruinart employee who operates this machine, astounded me with his know-how, serenity and patience. He is able to "read the wine", so that the gyropalette can be programmed properly, and becomes an extension of his hand. I loved the volumes and reflections in this scene, with its very specific orange light that is difficult to reproduce deep inside the cellars."
Disgorgement production line with workers
"I've always been fascinated by people who produce. To my mind, they are the ones who make the world go around. In 2006, I created an image with Chinese workers, which was a memorable experience. I found the same relationship here. Taking a photograph with four models is never easy, but they remained completely focused on their tool. The mood for this image verges on science fiction."
Hiding in the vineyards with the Ruinart Cellar Master
"It was just a few days before the harvest. You could sense the flurry of activity that would soon commence. I shared this image with Frédéric Panaïotis, the Ruinart cellar master. His knowledge was incredible. About wine obviously, but above all about nature, the earth and botany. He was constantly moving, and spent his time examining the vines. It was a fascinating experience, despite variable weather and changing light."
The Chinese artist Liu Bolin used the jackets he wears for his performances to elegantly decorate ten wooden boxes, each one with its own number. Inside the box is a jeroboam of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. These tailor-made jackets are like exceptional haute couture garments, ambassadors of the Maison Ruinart and its culture of excellence.
As a patron of contemporary art and design, Maison Ruinart can be found all over the world, wherever the artists of today enjoy the freedom to express themselves and exhibit their work.
Follow the collaboration between Liu Bolin and the House among the major art fairs.