13 Jan 2023
“La Grande Course is a major piece of my oeuvre. It's rather monumental, with animals in movement, and a color - the color of cognac - that I've never used before. I wanted to do something exceptional, something complicated, that I would be proud of.” - Yan Pei-Ming.
Maison Hennessy heralds a brand-new cycle in the Chinese calendar through a monumental composition by Yan Pei- Ming, one of the world's most celebrated and sought-after contemporary artists.
For the first time ever, in 2023 Maison Hennessy ushers in the Lunar New Year by honoring not just a single, symbolic animal, but the entire Zodiac in all its diversity. In the hands of Yan Pei-Ming, a joyful celebration becomes a symbol of inclusiveness and hope, carrying a promise of forward momentum after a particularly challenging period. The animals' spirited race toward new horizons conveys a singular truth: "Together, We Go Further."
This project marks the first time the Maison Hennessy has collaborated with Yan Pei-Ming.
Chinese by birth and naturalized French, the Expressionist artist has a life story that in many ways mirrors that of Richard Hennessy, the Irish-born founder of the House that, more than 250 years later, still bears his name.
Like him, Yan Pei-Ming 's story is one of striking out for adventure, embracing a vision, and building a life in a foreign land. Having seamlessly integrated into French culture, the artist graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Dijon and made that city his home and the heart of his practice.
"I love France enormously," said Yan Pei-Ming. " I came here knowing that I wanted to paint. That quickly canceled out any doubts and hesitations. I kept asking myself: 'Are you capable? Do you have something to say? How do you want to express it?' France is where I developed my character and forged my vision of the world. It's the country that gave me a chance."
While Yan Pei-Ming had no firsthand knowledge of the Maison, his uncle would return to Shanghai for Chinese New Year bearing a gift of Hennessy for the family patriarch. The carafe remained a treasured keepsake long after the cognac was gone.
For the artist, such memories were front of mind when he visited Maison Hennessy in Cognac. He found himself impressed by the architecture of both the site's historic buildings and the newer ones, the lingering aromas of cognac, and the subtle nuances of color in the Founder's Cellar, which he likens to a time capsule.
Renowned for his portraits of animals and famous personalities, Yan Pei-Ming honors the Year of the Rabbit with a monumental painting, measuring 6x3.5 meters, showing the animal within the extended family of the Chinese zodiac. The allegory is one of togetherness in diversity: across generations, geography and families — and despite differences — sharing culture is what connects us all.
The work's true subject, the artist notes, is not one animal or another, or even the cognac itself. Instead, Yan Pei-Ming wished to focus on capturing light. "When you hold a bottle of cognac up to sunlight, its hues vary so much. I wanted to portray cognac — but it's light that is really the color of this painting," the artist says.
La Grande Course, a vibrant composition inspired in part by an epic saga from Hollywood's golden era, shows the zodiac bestiary galloping in unison, evoking a message of freedom, inclusion, and interconnectedness. For the first time in his remarkable career, Yan Pei-Ming ventures into a new palette: amber, orange, russet and burgundy tones take pride of place in a composition that nods to the amber and mahogany hues of Hennessy X.O. The artist's signature broad, sweeping brushstrokes impart a sense of universality, immediacy, and adventure.
The Maison Hennessy is proud to unveil La Grande Course, a painting Yan Pei- Ming considers pivotal in his oeuvre. This special piece will be accompanied by limited Lunar New Year editions of Hennessy V.S.O.P, Hennessy X.O, and Hennessy Paradis cognacs featuring elements of this artwork. The most precious offer, a one-liter Hennessy Paradis carafe created in collaboration with the French heritage Maison Bernardaud and hand-decorated in the porcelain maker’s atelier in Limoges has been produced in a limited, numbered edition of only 888 pieces exclusively for CNY. It is presented in a beautifully crafted wooden box and sold exclusively in select retail destinations.