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Bedell Wine Cellars released this week their new collaborative wine label from artist Mickalene Thomas. Bedell was founded in 1980 in Long Island and is dedicated to producing wines using certified sustainable farming. The new label of Bedell’s First Crush Red 2013 blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot features one of Mickalene’s abstracted female faces constructed of geometric cutouts. Whitewall spoke with the founder of Bedell, Michael Lynne, about combining his two passions: art and wine.
WHITEWALL: How did you first become involved with Bedell Cellars?
MICHAEL LYNNE: I was interested for many years in owning a winery and looked in all the typical places—France, Italy, California, but all of them felt very far away for something I wanted to be truly involved with on an ongoing basis. Then, about 17 years ago a friend took me out to North Fork of Long Island for a day. I was captivated with the beautiful agricultural landscape and the quality and potential of the wines—that led to my purchase of Corey Creek, and, one year later, Bedell Cellars.
WW: How does your background in the arts and entertainment industry influence your approach to the Bedell collaborations?
ML: I feel strongly about the connection between, if you will, Hollywood and Vine. Filmmaking and winemaking are both creative pursuits, both involve meaningful collaboration with many talented individuals as part of the process, and both involve elements which cannot be entirely predicted and which are affected by elements beyond our control. That’s where the talent of the team becomes so important.
WW: How did you first come up with the idea to use contemporary artists for your wine labels?
ML: It was a way to bring my two passions closer together. We have always installed a substantial amount of contemporary art in our Tasting Room and on the property at Bedell. It then occurred to me that having wonderful art by contemporary artists whom I admire and who were friends of mine on our labels would be a way to help define our brand, and dramatically underline the special care and talent involved in the making of our wines. Also the labels look absolutely beautiful.
WW: Could you explain a bit more about the collaborations? Do you approach the artists with an idea of what you want for the bottle, or do you allow them full creative license to create a special work for Bedell?
ML: I ask the artist if they are interested—after that it is entirely up to them to suggest the possibilities. There is, of course, some collaboration as to the particular image we select once the artists have proposed the choices.
WW: How did you choose Mickalene Thomas for this year’s collaboration?
ML: I have known of Mickalene’s wonderful work for quite a while and have collected her work for almost ten years now. Not long ago I commissioned a large work from Mickalene for our apartment in New York City. She was a pleasure to work with and the piece she did for us (Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noirs Avec Jardin d’eau) is magnificent.
WW: The phrase “wine pairing” typically connotes a combination of wine and food, but for Bedell, the pairing is more about wine and art. Thomas’s work appears on this year’s First Crush Red 2013 blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Do you choose particular wines for particular artists?
ML: Perhaps a little—it may just be an instinct about which artists work would feel natural on which wine. But mostly, it is related to artists whom I know and whose work I just love.
WW: How does this collaboration differ from previous years? Are there any themes for the collaborations that dictate which artists you work with?
ML: The collaboration was very similar to our other collaborations with Chuck Close, Barbara Kruger, Eric Fishl, April Gornik and Ross Bleckner. Enthusiastic, fun and enjoyable all around.
WW: What first attracted you to the art world and collecting?
ML: I was a young lawyer in the early 80’s when very young artists were emerging in a dramatic way. Many of them needed a lawyer then as they purchased studios and houses. I worked with them and we became friends; I was fascinated by their art and very much bitten by the collecting bug. The collecting of emerging artist has been my passion since then up to this moment.
WW: Who are some of the artists you gravitate towards as a private collector?
ML: As I said, I have collected emerging artists since the early 80s (Eric Fischl, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince, Julian Schnabel, etc.) till today (Joe Bradley, Matt Conners, Jon Pestoni, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Eddie Peake, etc.).