How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now

Jessica Woznak; jwoznak@SFMOMA.org

from 02/2011

Henry Urbach

SFMOMA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

How Wine Became Modern explores recent transformations in the material and visual culture of wine. Opening at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in July 2010, the exhibition offers a fresh way of understanding the contemporary culture of wine and the role that architecture, graphic design, and industrial design have played in its recent evolution. Organized by Henry Urbach, SFMOMA’s curator of architecture and design, the exhibition marks the first time that modern, global wine culture has been considered as an integrated yet expansive and richly textured set of cultural phenomena.

The story begins in 1976, the year of the so-called Judgment of Paris. There, in a blind taste test, nine French wine experts pronounced a number of northern California wines superior to esteemed French vintages. However apt the decision, later criticized and repeatedly restaged, the event released shock waves across the globe as it gave the nascent California wine industry, as well as winemakers in many other parts of the world, new confidence, credibility, and visibility. This, in turn, had multiple effects including the expansion of wine markets, growing popular awareness of wine, the birth of wine criticism, vineyard tourism, and a host of other manifestations. From this moment forward, the culture of wine began to accommodate and valorize new priorities such as innovation, diversification, globalization, and accessibility. In many different ways, all around the world, wine became modern as it reimagined its own forms of representation.

The exhibition, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, combines original artifacts such as architectural models and photographs with multimedia presentations and interpretive text. Viewers will encounter objects and information within a set of immersive environments that engages multiple senses including taste and smell. Thematic sections include: Architecture + Wine

Over the past twenty years, there has been an explosion of ambitious, sometimes excellent, modern wine architecture across the globe. Architects including Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl, Herzog + de Meuron, Matthias Klotz, Renzo Piano, and Alvaro Siza have designed provocative new buildings and explored emerging areas of intersection between winemaking and tourism, such as hotels, visitor centers and tasting rooms. There is a special concentration of these projects in California, Spain, and Austria, with important examples in many other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, and Switzerland.

The exhibition will present the most significant examples of winery and vineyard architecture, approximately fifteen to twenty examples, with large, newly commissioned black-and-white photographs that capture the relationship of building and landscape as well as architectural models and interviews with winery owners, architects, and others in the field.

A section on 1980s winery competitions will set the stage for more recent developments. In 1985, SFMOMA organized the first architectural competition for the design of a winery, Clos Pegase, located near St. Helena in the Napa Valley. The winning architect-artist team, Michael Graves and Edward Schmidt, designed the winery at the height of American postmodernism as a faux-Tuscan compound. Three years later, the Centre Georges Pompidou organized two winery competitions, one speculative and the other to renovate Château Pichon-Longueville in Bordeaux. We will present these competitions through models, drawings, and documents to consider how wine became modern as it reached towards architecture.