Welcome to the new Aesthetic Age

Gilles Lipovetsky, the French sociologist, explains in his latest book  “Living in the age of artistic capitalism” why we are entering a new ‘aesthetic’ age.

If art has always been an integral part of human activity since the beginning of mankind, four major eras can be defined. In primitive societies, art was related to religious rituals with no specific aesthetic purpose. Come the Renaissance, the first aesthetic society was born through the aristocratic courts of Kings and Princes which prevailed until the 18th century. The third era started with the modern age when the artistic sphere freed itself from religious and aristocratic patronage to establish art as a world apart, with its own agenda and purpose.

The theory proposed is that we have now entered a fourth phase, in which artistic activity is  incorporated into the commercial offer. And this is not only true for fashion but for all product and service categories. Difficult to argue against this, when you look at the recent drink introductions of Absolut Originality, Ruinart and the Cup Sake in Japan.

If this fourth era is going to last and it probably will, we need to pay homage to the visionary Baron Philippe de Rothschild who was the first entrepreneur to introduce art on the labels of Mouton Rothschild. In 1945 he commissioned contemporary artists such as Miró, Chagall, Braque, Henry Moore, Tàpies, Francis Bacon, Dali, Balthus and Jeff Koons to illustrate each new vintage of the Premier Cru Classé.

In 1987 Lewis Moberly bought ‘art to the masses’ with the multi award winning Asda wine spirit range. Fledging artists, ceramicists, sculptors, and painters graced inexpensive labels with their talent.  It was liberating work, a retail revolution followed.

The use of art to add commercial value continues apace. Absolut Originality builds on the brand’s signature cobalt blue colour in an imaginative and branded way. The new bottle has been created by releasing a drop of cobalt blue into the clear glass during the manufacturing process each time (4 million times). Each bottle a unique creation.

The Ruinart Champagne Brand, the oldest champagne house established in 1729, recently commissioned the Dutch artist Piet Hein Eek to design casing boxes made of scrap wood for the Ruinart Blanc de Blanc. The artist selected recycled pine in shades of pale grey, white and cream. Ruinart was born with art in its name, part of its dna. What is extraordinary with this work is that all boxes have been crafted in-house. They project authenticity through the aged wood and modernity through the straight shapes. The boxes can even be stacked to form a bigger shape as a circle or an arch to dramatize the discovery.

Given the success and the media response, the House of Ruinart also commissioned the artist Maarten Baas for Dom Ruinart new vintages. Maarten Baas famous for his charred furniture creating an extraordinary tension between the black colour, the sophistication of the objects and the charred effect.

This year, at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, Cup Sake won a Lion for the design of five sake cups using traditional glass craftsmen to turn the banal into the beautiful. All five varieties were sold out in the first month although they were priced at 36€ each when the usual sake cup is sold at 1.25€.