Maison Ruinart, the oldest champagne house, established in 1729, has enjoyed close and long-standing relations with the art and design world, starting in 1895 when André Ruinart commissioned the Czech artist, Alfons Mucha, to create an advertising poster. Since then, Ruinart has worked with a number of artists and designers including Maarten Baas, India Mahdavi, Gideon Rubin and Hervé Van der Straeten.
The Maison's collaboration was with Piet Hein Eek,, whose passion for wood-working is unparalleled. Not the traditional wood used by carpenters or the solid wood used by sculptors, but wood already rich in history; the wood we tend to disregard, overlooking its natural beauty. For more than twenty years, he has designed contemporary marquetry in this wood which has taken on a patina over time. Through his collections of chairs, tables, armchairs and chests, this artist, a graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, explores the authenticity of wood whilst offering it in quite unexpected interpretations.
Piet Hein Eek sees the history of Maison Ruinart as shown by the production of a monumental installation, halfway between a sculpture and a piece of architecture. This gigantic construction, 7 metres wide by 5 metres high, plays on the power of the individual units brought together. Twelve modules, the trapezoid shape of which copies the case designed for each bottle, are assembled to create an arch supported on two pillars. In the centre of this symbolic arch, four modules echo the adventure of the Maison's first wooden containers in the XVIIIth Century: twenty-six bottles are nestled in each of the four units creating an aerial geometric shape.
This monumental work is nothing other than an immense wooden arch, vaulted like the heights of the Ruinart Crayères (chalk cellars). The idea came to Eek when plunging deep into the heart of the Maison's cellars. In front of him was the immenseness of the height, a cathedral hollowed out of the chalk, the very womb nurturing these exceptional wines, which will travel across the world in their famous wooden cases...
The Maison's inspiration for collaborating with Piet Hein Eek is rooted in its own historical association with wood. Ruinart is the first champagne house to transport its champagne in wooden cases, its first shipment recorded in 1769. The use of this type of case did not become widespread in other champagne houses until the 1830's.