Exactly one week ago, there was an excited explosion of color above the sky in Cognac, France. The occasion of fireworks was a celebration held by Hennessy to commemorate the 150th anniversary of its Hennessy X.O. Although Maurice Hennessy originally created this unique style of cognac for his friends back in 1870, the harmonious blend continues to be the emblem of the Hennessy maison today.
The daytime event, “A World Odyssey,” was presented in collaboration with the artist Cai Guo-Qiang over the famed Charente River. Seen around the world thanks to a livestream, the global multi-phased happening aimed to bring communities together for a shared vision of optimism and resilience.
“The pandemic brought us great difficulties and has prompted us to reflect,” said Guo-Qiang. “We’re now entering a new chapter of humankind’s strenuous odyssey. I hope to create daytime fireworks that express my reflection on this pandemic and the fate of humanity.”
Known for his use of gunpowder and fireworks, Guo-Qiang has been known to stage public events that drive emotional resonance, like at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. But for this impassioned presentation, he designed the experience as an uplifting demonstration in the midst of the pandemic. Inspired by The Birth of Tragedy by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the show was exhibited in three 15-minute explosions, launched from 150 oak barrels to symbolize the 150th anniversary.
“As Nietzsche elaborates in The Birth of Tragedy, there is a human spirit that, after acknowledging the pain of life, still embraces and enjoys it. After all, mankind is a part of nature, and in life, there always comes the spring after the winter,” said Guo-Qiang.
“We are now entering a new chapter of humankind’s strenuous odyssey. The signal from Cognac, traveling through cloud infrastructure, connects individuals from different parts of the world, enabling primeval passion to burst and form a community of shared future that is closely bonded with nature and art, continued Guo-Qiang. “While the fireworks express my contemplation on tragedy, art, and the essence of life, I hope the audience will draw inspiration from the fireworks in order to reconcile with nature and find the power to heal.”
The event was also the first time that the artist directed and narrated a daytime production from an aquatic environment for a real-time audience—and with sustainability in mind, using exclusively non-toxic, reduced-smoke, CE-certified pyrotechnic products.
“In these unprecedented times, what has become particularly clear is that we are one interconnected family,” says Hennessy President and CEO Laurent Boillot. “At Hennessy, our roots run deep thanks to longstanding relationships reaching back generations. Today, from his base in New York City, Cai Guo-Qiang reminds us of those time-honored bonds with a masterpiece of universal beauty and resonance. On behalf of the Maison Hennessy, it is not only an honor and a privilege to host this artistic event, it is a demonstration of our steadfast commitment to our extended international family. A century and a half after the Hennessy X.O saga began, Cai offers an artistic vision of an Odyssey forged by unity, resilience and hope. In the exceptional context of 2020, those values guide us, reminding us how far we’ve come, and how far we can still travel together. From our vantage point in Cognac, where fireworks from the East—Liuyang county in China—blooms in the sky overlooking the Charente, Hennessy and Cai are proud to welcome one and all to participate in an artistic event that honors generosity of spirit and looks to new horizons with renewed courage.”
To continue their shared values (which centers around a “persistent determination on the spirit of craftsmanship,” according Guo-Qiang), Hennessy is also supporting the artist’s upcoming exhibition “Odyssey and Homecoming” at the Palace Museum, Beijing.
In conjunction of “A World Odyssey,” Hennessy is also celebrating with a limited-edition Frank Gehry X.O 150th Anniversary Masterpiece bottle designed by architect Frank Gehry. Reinterpreting the timeless bottle, Gehry put his own signature twist on the product, marrying gold and glass for a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. This piece was unveiled at the anniversary festivities, first launching in an exclusive run of 150 numbered and signed decanters. In the U.S., proceeds from the bottle will benefit Unfinished Business—the brand’s new initiative that helps small businesses face the challenges of COVID-19. A wider release of the same limited-edition bottles is expected to launch worldwide in the future.