Connections of art and wine: the new artwork by Elisabetta Benassi for the Antinori Art Project

The world of wine reveals extraordinary connections with art, for example, the Antinori winery in Chianti Classico is a truly historic link that starts in 1385 and binds the Antinori family to a passion for the arts: painting, sculpture, architecture, and of course, transforming the fruits of the earth into great wines. For more than six hundred years, the Antinori family has linked its name to excellence in the art of wine and the best patronage tradition. Two apparently very different spheres, which in reality they have often proceeded in parallel: the family has frequently entrusted art with the task of narrating the values and history of their lineage, whose coat of arms is also a work of artistic merit, which came out in the early 1500s from the Florentine workshop of the sculptor and ceramist Giovanni della Robbia.

Aerial view of Antinori Winery
Aerial view of Antinori Winery

The Antinori Art Project

A long-lasting relationship whose epitome is the new winery inaugurated in 2012, a structure carved into the lands of Chianti Classico, which collects paintings, ceramics, ancient manuscripts and numerous site-specific works created to narrate this special link between the world of wine and art. Conceived by architect Marco Casamonti, the building sinks into the depths of the vine-covered hillside and literally plunges into the earth with its sinuous lines, a sort of invitation to communion with nature.

This gave rise to a real Antinori Art Project, which moves from the idea of creating a natural continuation of the collecting activity that is part of the family’s tradition, directing it, however, toward contemporary arts and artists. Antinori Art Project is in fact, a platform of interventions in the contemporary sphere, created in collaboration with established curators, which brings together under a single coherent project all those put into the field in this area. In this way, the winery has become a point of reference not only for wine enthusiasts but also for art and all those who love bien vivre.

Elisabetta Benassi’s new site-specific artwork

Among the new additions is Elisabetta Benassi‘s site-specific artwork that started from a telegram that composer Giacomo Puccini sent to Marchese Piero Antinori in 1910, on the occasion of the Premiere of the opera La fanciulla del West at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. For the occasion, the artist created a carpet – La fanciulla del West, 2023 – in which that very famous telegram is transposed, recounting Arturo Toscanini‘s exceptional success.

The original telegram is kept by the family, along with a substantial correspondence, bearing witness to a historical friendship that saw the history of this ancient Florentine family intertwine with that of Italian culture. It is not only a work of art, but also a testament to craftsmanship: the carpet was in fact hand-knotted in Kathmandu, a city to which Benassi has returned on several occasions, an idea that also evokes the artist’s journey that merges into the project.

The artist herself comments, “This telegram is a message of friendship and sharing about the triumph of this opera performed in New York in 1910. This telegram is a sort of time machine linking the past to the present, a flying carpet and a bridge connecting these two moments. I like the idea of this document becoming a common object, a carpet on which we can also walk.”

The journey through the artworks of Antinori winery

A true museum integrated into the visitor route inside the winery that hosts the family’s historic collection, which has included a special program of annual commissions, many of them site-specific, addressed to important artists from the national and international art scene.

The interventions have seen in the two-year period 2012/2013, under Chiara Parisi‘s curatorship, the involvement of Yona Friedman, Rosa Barba and Jean-Baptiste Decavèle.

The arrival of Ilaria Bonacossa as the project’s biennial artistic director in 2014 was followed by the participation of Tomàs Saraceno, who created the work Biosphere 06, cluster of 3, installed in the vertical space of the cellar’s interior staircase; then in 2015 the exhibition Still Life Remix, dedicated to the timeless theme of still life, the installation of the work Hourglass by artist Giorgio Andreotta Calò; in 2016, the acquisition of the site-specific work, Giant Fruit by Nicolas Party as part of the Antinori Art Project; the commission of the work Portal del Angel by sculptor Jorge Peris, a precarious triumphal arch created through the reappropriation of local materials, such as the ancient terracotta jars historically used to store oil.

In 2017 it was Stefano Arienti‘s turn, who, in deep dialogue with the precious Antinori Lunetta, or The Resurrection of Christ by Giovanni della Robbia dating from the 16th century, created Altorilievo: a reworking of the compositional logic of Della Robbia’s work. In June 2019, the Antinori family, presented Untitled (Antinori), a major new site-specific installation project commissioned from American artist Sam Falls (San Diego, 1983).


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