A Portrait of the artist: Hurbert Le Gall x Ruinart

A Portrait of the artist: Hurbert Le Gall x Ruinart

a cold windy night in Paris and hundreds of people are
crowding into the underground exhibition space at the Palais de
Tokyo. Others, disgruntled, are made to wait. They are far too well
dressed to be kept behind a velvet rope.

Everyone is here for the unveiling of the latest in a long line
of contemporary art collaborations with the historic champagne
house Ruinart. The man of the hour is French artist Hubert
le Gall who has created twelve impressive glass sculptures, all of
which are illuminated and lined up along the middle of the
exhibition space.

Made from Murano glass with a mixed palette of black, green,
yellow and clear glass, the 12 pieces were inspired by the Sillery
Vineyards in the Montagne de Reims, Ruinart’s traditional vineyard.
They each represent one month of the year and pay tribute to the
passage of time, referencing the effect of the changing seasons and
the work of man upon the champagne-making process.

Hubert is swarmed by admirers, so I am unable to reach him to
discuss his collaboration. Luckily, the next morning I am taken to
his Parisian atelier. Behind a discreet door in Montmartre, tiny
pebbled pathways lead to a hidden group of artists’ residences.
These idyllic houses were once upon a time the homes of Salvador
Dalí and Pierre Bonnard amongst others.

Once inside however, Hubert Le Gall’s studio is an altogether
more contemporary affair. Famous for his functional furniture, his
playful and poetic approach makes for a fascinating environment:
gold mirrors in varying shapes and sizes distort your reflection at
every turn; a Pinokio lamp sits next to a life-sized plaster
alligator climbing the wall and a green velvet chaise sits below a
giant giraffe sculpture that appears to grow out of the office

I sat down with Hubert, in a giant cushioned flower pot, to
discuss the artist’s latest collaboration with Ruinart:

What is the first piece of art you remember appreciating?

The first piece of art, my first real shock, was when I went to
the Musée des Beaux Arts with my school and saw a painting by
Pietro Perugino – a wonderful painter from the 16th century.

What is the first piece of art you remember making?

I was six-years-old and I made a drawing of a daisy. I have the
drawing now, hanging in my study.

You worked at an insurance company for many years before
becoming an artist full time. How did you end up working in such a
formal job?

It was not a classic insurance job. I was the artist of the
company. I had to make books and films to help customers understand
what they sold. It was fabulous. They believed that to create, I
needed to be out there, living, even if that meant that I had to be
lying in a swimming pool all afternoon, because maybe I would have
a great idea there. But I didn’t have full creative control.

How did you decide to make art your living?

I was in New York and I met a guy around 40-years-old who
explained that he had changed his life to do what he wanted. I
realised that I was young – I was 27 – and also had the chance to
do what I wanted. I started painting and made a few portraits with
quite a lot of success. But when I delivered the paintings people
would say, “very nice…I’m trying to find a table do you know
where I can find it?” so I would say “I can do it.” Then it became,
‘I want to make a chandelier’ and so on. With furniture, I can be
free because it is functional. At the time I started, everyone in
France wanted to be on trend. One minute everyone was painting and
then painting was finished and it was all about video art. I
decided to make furniture so everyone would leave me alone.

You have a lot of animals and nature in your work? Is that your
primary inspiration?

HLG: A lot of people look at my work and think
I am inspired by nature, but in fact my inspiration is art. See my
daisy table for example. The flowers were not inspired by nature,
but rather the daisies in Andy Warhol’s prints. The flower pot that
we are sitting in was inspired by a very big pot that the French
Artist Jean Pierre Raynaud made. The same with my bookshelf which
was inspired by Roy Lichtenstein. A lot of artists today sacralise
the mundane and useful things. I am interested by the opposite. I
am inspired by art, and then make it functional.

How did Ruinart serve as inspiration?

I was inspired by the history of the brand and the high quality
of champagne. And the process. When you go to Reims and see where
they produce it, you understand how sophisticated the
champagne-making process is. I used to go to a vineyard in Lyon in
September when the vineyard was full of grapes and leaves. I had
never thought about going in winter. When I went to Ruinart in
February it looked like land art with all the bare sticks poking
out from the earth. I understood in winter how important and how
precise the work of man is to the art of champagne. My idea was to
express both things – nature and man controlling nature. I also
wanted to express the notion of time – the weather, but also the
time to produce the wine, the time you must wait to drink it and
even the moment you drink it.

Why did you choose Murano glass?

With Murano glass you can feel the material, feel the manual
work like the process of making the wine. And it has small bubbles
like champagne. I also wanted to work with wood as the expression
of nature.

Ruinart is a big brand with a long history of collaborating
with artists. Did you feel a lot of pressure?

I had a lot of pressure, but not from them, rather myself. They
left me to express the vineyard how I wanted to. But I wanted to be
proud of my job. I was very happy yesterday at the Palais de Tokyo.
I love the sculptures. It’s my portrait. Actually it’s their
portrait. Or maybe it’s a portrait of the vineyard.

A Portrait of Hubert Le Gall by Ruinart

Favourite virtue: For a designer: sincerity,
even if it is mistaken.

Ultimate luxury: Silence! Increasingly rare…I
do not like noisy people or things and I prefer not to go near them
and prefer to do without them.

The country you would like to live in: In a
France that sparkles.

Favourite animal: The rabbit with large ears.
When I look at my work I see them everywhere: in a candlestick, a
mirror, an armchair. There must surely be an explanation.

Book on your bedside table: I prefer auction
sale catalogues.

Ideal holiday: With close friends for laughing
and sharing, or alone with paper, pencils and pieces of string. I
like to feel surrounded, but I keep a lot of time for tinkering
alone. To celebrate good news with: The first
onlooker as long as there was chilled champagne.

hubertlegall.wordpress.com + ruinart.com