Two museums are bringing together their collections to cast new light on wine containers. The shape of a wine bottle may seem unchangeable, but there are, and always have been, many possible variations upon it. What links a wooden cup and a stylish carafe? What stories could be told by age-old containers and glass artworks? Through the exhibition and accompanying publication, This Is Not a Bottle ! sets up an unexpected encounter between two worlds: those of ethnology and contemporary creativity.
This project was born out of a desire shared by the two institutions. The mudac and the Musée valaisan de la Vigne et du Vin (Valais Museum of the Vine and Wine) have brought together both their collections, enriched by loans from around Europe and the United States, and their perspectives on the bottle. They spotlight around sixty pieces, all of great cultural and artistic value. This dialogue between objects relating to the histories of wine and design also raises questions around forms, usages and symbols.
The exhibition curators have created interesting links between these varied wine containers. You can see, for example, ancient kegs once used by thirsty peasants in the fields rubbing shoulders with portable vessels by the Czech designer Tadeáš Podracký. Similarly a wooden birthing cup is presented alongside the famous Strange Carafe by the sculptor Etienne Meneau… This carafe evokes a network of veins, a reminder of wine’s fortifying role. In paraphrasing the painter Magritte’s famous Ceci n’est pas une pipe, the museums are challenging their visitors to consider the way these objects, which relate to the ways we see, drink and serve wine, are represented.
The book This Is Not a Bottle! both celebrates this selection of objects and imparts meaning to them. While the images illuminate the beauty and unique nature of the containers, the curators’ words set the pieces back in their contexts. These receptacles evolved alongside wine’s social function and commercial development, until they reached the cylindrical form of the modern bottle. For their part, the designers and artists play humorously on the shapes and times. Published in an oblong format reminiscent of a bottle, this book is both elegant and playful.