Frank Gehry Shares What Inspired His Limited Edition Decanter For Hennessy XO's 150th Anniversary
Fifty years ago, Frank Gehry visited the Delphi Archaeological Museum in Greece where, standing in front of the Charioteer of Delphi—one of the most recognisable surviving sculptures from Ancient Greece—he began to cry. The famed architect described the experience as “a really powerful notion to me that you could transmit emotion through inert materials; it meant architecture could create an emotional response—and furniture, and painting and sculpture.”
This feeling became a philosophy, one that has informed Gehry’s work, including even his most recent project, a decanter he designed for the 150th anniversary of Hennessy XO, the revered French cognac. “I wanted this collaboration to be more than a decanter but a sculpture,” says Gehry of his debut project with Hennessy, adding that “a bottle of cognac is already a work of art—one you can smell, taste, and feel.”
The exclusive, limited run of 150 decanters—each imprinted with Gehry’s signature—represents the technique, labour, and emotion of Hennessy’s storied family lineage and dedicated craftsmen.
To stir Gehry’s imagination for the design, LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault personally brought Gehry to the Maison Hennessy, which was opened as a distillery by Richard Hennessy in 1765. Gehry and Arnault have a long history as friends and collaborators. In 2006, Gehry designed the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, and last October, he contributed his poetic wave-like fa.ade designs to a new store in South Korea, Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul. “It’s become kind of family for me,” says Gehry.
During his time in Cognac, Gehry toured the barrels and warehouses, studied the history of the maison, and got an intimate look into the distilling process. “I was impressed by the deep culture and the individuals who have dedicated their lives to crafting Hennessy XO like a form of art. It was mesmerising,” says Gehry. “With Hennessy, the culture is a commitment to excellence, they want excellence in everything they do and want the accoutrement of Hennessy XO to be on par with the taste. There’s a serious emotional commitment from the people who make this product. It’s got a resonance of commitment to an idea, a thought and a product. It’s simple and complicated.”
Maison Hennessy’s location on the Charente River plays a starring role in Gehry’s decanter design. Using “strong but elegant” materials—that is, bronze dipped in 24-karat gold—to give it a feeling of movement, the decanter envelops the emblematic Hennessy XO bottle, designed to replicate the gentle flow of the river’s surface texture as it captures light.
The concept continues with a fractured glass glorifier, a display case designed to house the decanter, further playing with the concept of light dancing on the water. “Once the glass comes out of the oven it cracks and makes beautiful fissures. I love the accidental cracking, it’s like nature somehow,” Gehry explains. The finishing touch is a gold and glass fusil, an ornate dropper that is used to extract the spirit based on an existing Hennessy design, which Gehry says “joins the decanter and glorifier as one.”
Gehry has made a 60-year career of defying conventional shapes and ideas, as seen in his famous large-scale designs for the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, so a bottle of cognac offered him the chance to give himself a little toast. “Creativity is at first curiosity,” he says. “Creative ideas come from being curious about the subject, asking questions and discovering along the way, and not being afraid to try new things.”
Discover more at hennessy.com