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Hennessy collaborates with an artist each year for its “Very Special” cognac, asking him or her to transform the bottle label (in year’s past it’s been artists like Kaws, Futura, Os Gemeos, and Shepard Fairey). This year, timed with the celebration of the brand’s 250-year anniversary, Hennessy enlisted New York artist Ryan McGinness to play with the V.S. logo. Whitewall had the chance to speak with the artist in his studio about working with Hennessy.
WHITEWALL: What led to the partnership with Hennessy?
RYAN MCGINNESS: Hennessy reached out to me and asked if I was interested, out of the blue. I knew the other artists that were involved in the project and I was immediately very interested.
WW: What was the process of designing the bottle?
RM: It was an eight to ten month process that started last year. I went to Amsterdam to focus on the label and get away from the studio. I like to get away from the studio when I work on an extensive project such as this one. It is easier for me to keep focus when I get away from the studio. If I stay in New York, I lose focus and projects get lost in the shuffle.
WW: Was there something specific you wanted communicate with your artwork with Hennessy?
RM: So the artwork for the bottle comes from existing work that I’ve done. “Black Holes” was chosen specifically for this project because they symbolize celebration. They are explosions. Hennessy is celebrating their 250-year anniversary, so it went perfectly for the project. Black holes in real life, they have a gravitational pull to them; they are portals to other worlds and other dimensions. I wanted to capture that aspect but also capture fanciness. The “metadata” that I’ve chosen for the label also embrace the luxury in all aspects. In my “Black Hole” paintings, I layered the flourishes and swirls with different colors; I made the paintings luxurious.
WW: In creating the bottle, was the work with Hennessy more collaborative or was there more artistic freedom?
RM: Both, I think. When I was planning and brainstorming with Hennessy there was so much artistic freedom. The sky was the limit and I just went for it. During the production phase, that is when the “real world” sets in. You have to work through the final details and finish of the design and product. While I was visiting in Cognac, I had just finished the concept and there we mapped out the finer details and I picked the color palate. We also added an invisible layer of fluorescent ink to the design, so the label will light up under black light. The fluorescent ink is very sheer, so we had to build up the layers, and create the fine lines during production. This is the first time Hennessy has ever done something like this, so it was exploring new means of the product.
WW: Do you drink Hennessy?
RM: Yes, I do. It is an important point of consideration when I am working on a project that it works with my art. My work is an extension of my identity and that is important to me when I chose projects like these. The collaboration was a very good match.
WW: Have you collaborated with other brands or created other logos?
RM: When I first started working, after I finished studying design in Pittsburgh, I was working on logos. So I was familiar with the process of production and creation. This collaboration with Hennessy was a good because we were able to go back and forth on the artwork, specifically for the label. I looked after the different inks and printing presses used for production. My education and background in design was very helpful in this process.