A chat with... Florence Cathiard, Château Smith Haut Lafitte
The symmetry between wine and art is another compelling draw for these clients, a conviction championed by châteaux-owners such as Florence Cathiard of Smith Haut Lafitte. We met to discuss her duel passions of art and wine.
What was the catalyst for the arrival of artwork in your vineyards?
Sculptures started to appear amongst the vines of our château over 10 years ago, the first arrival was a giant bronze hare by Barry Flanagan. Often it is as result of personal encounters that either my husband Daniel or I have had with an artist. Sometimes we commission work, as was the case with the metallic sphere by Chuck Hoberman
which spreads out like a vine flower transforming into a grape.
Tell us about your project which features work from local artists?
We wanted to extend the area for exhibiting artwork into the forest bordering our vineyards and so we inaugurated the Land’art path in June 2017. Spread across 8 hectares of woodland, it includes sculptures by Durante & Segond and Vincent Mauger, all completely exposed to the elements. Designed to appeal to the 5 senses, visitors are actively encouraged to play music on the wooden structures of Jose Le Piez’s ‘Island of Sounds’. Likewise the witch’s stone seat from the Landes forest and its mossy surroundings are too tempting not to touch.
How do you ensure that the artwork integrates with the natural environment?
On the Land’art path, the artists are free to choose the locations for their masterpieces. The ‘Vortex’ spider web is hidden in the trees, but some such as ‘La Bacchante’ are not so easy to miss. The rusty giant safety pin, in the form of the ‘Generation Gap’ by David Middlebrook blends well with the wooden winery where grapes from younger vines are vinified. Others such as the bronze structure of crinkled paper by Wang Du are deliberately placed so as to be thought-provoking.
How do you align your collection of sculptures with your activity of producing wine?
We believe that there are many connections to be made between wine connoisseurs who also enjoy art and art lovers who appreciate wine. Exposing the artwork in a type of open air museum allows us to also make a link with the philosophy of the winemaking at Château Smith Haut Lafitte – respect for the environment and biodiversity. During the “When art meets vines” tour, visitors walk through the gravelly vineyard plots of Cabernet Sauvignon and learn about their lifecycle, all the while passing sculptures. The unguided tour of the Land’art path culminates at the Scented Garden and the Tisanerie (a fragrant storeroom for dried plants such as nettle and chamomile) which helps to explain the biodynamic practices we are adopting to treat our vines. Of course, visitors on both of these tours taste our wines at the end!
Sphère by Jordi, at the start of the Land’art path at Château Smith Haut Lafitte.