For 2023, the House of Hennessy has collaborated with artist Yan Pei-Ming to create a series of Chinese New Year-themed releases. In addition to his work appearing on the packaging and bottles of Hennessy‘s VSOP, XO, and Paradis offerings, Yan – who is known for his large-scale portraits – also created a wall-sized painting for the occasion.
Called ‘La Grande Course’ – or ‘The Great Race’ in English – Yan elected not to focus solely on the rabbit, which is this year’s zodiac animal, but included all twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. The vibrant work is expressed via fluid, impressionistic brushstrokes, and is dominated by reddish and amber hues that were inspired by the way cognac looks and behaves in glasses and barrels. “As the saying goes, there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes. Observing the cognac from different perspectives would offer different interpretations. No words can adequately describe how its hues vary subtly yet intriguingly according to the environment,” he explains of his inspiration.
“The painting is unique not only because it exhibits the various forms of animals or its delightful resonance with Hennessy, but the delicate expression of light,” Yan adds. “When we hold up a bottle of Hennessy against the sunlight, we will be able to observe the vibrant colour changes in the cognac. I aspired to capture these shades through this artwork, which showcased the tints bestowed by the light upon the cognac.”
Large paintings are best viewed in person, but Yan does not feel the intent of his art was impacted during the translation to bottle and packaging. “To me, the essence of creation lies in the meaning of art, and not the size of the canvas. Even the smallest of space could convey artistic sentiments and emotions,” he says. “The creation process for ‘La Grande Course’ emphasised openness. After I put finishing touches to the painting, Hennessy combined my artwork with the classic bottle.”
Born in Shanghai and now based in France, Yan has many fond childhood memories of Chinese New Year. He recalls that in 1970, his uncle visited Paris and returned with a bottle of Hennessy as a gift. Today, Hennessy cognac is his preferred drink. “Such a craving would arise any moment, be it when I am spending time alone or with friends,” he says. “The very moment I lay my eyes on it, I would light a cigar, pour myself a glass and savour the finest things in life.”