This California Winery Is Opening a Massive Sculpture Park With Works by Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, and More Blue-Chip Artists
It was Allan Warburg’s passion for pinot noir that led him to Donum Estate in 2011. The Danish collector acquired the vineyard sight unseen after first sipping its wine a few years earlier. But when he finally saw the stunning property in Sonoma, California, in 2015, the experience stoked one of Warburg’s other passions: buying contemporary art.
Warburg, who is the founder and owner of Bestseller, one of the largest clothing companies in China, has since married his love for art and wine, and the result will be unveiled this weekend. The Donum Sculpture Collection is an open-air sculpture park featuring dozens of major works and site-specific commissions by a veritable who’s who of global contemporary art stars. The site showcases work by Ai Weiwei, Keith Haring, Louise Bourgeois, Zhan Wang, Yue Minjun, Jaume Plensa, Yayoi Kusama, Subodh Gupta, and Danh Vo. The art is interspersed with 150-year old olive trees, bee hives, and an organic farm, and of course, the property’s small but prestigious vineyard.
“When you come through Donum, you are out in this beautiful natural setting, you listen to the birds singing, you smell our lavender and taste our wine—which we think is a great wine,” Warburg told artnet News. “It’s a very special feeling. You combine all those things and the experience is more powerful than if you enjoyed them separately.” He added: “I believe that one plus one is not always two.”
Louise Bourgeois, Crouching Spider (2003). Photo by Robert Berg. Image courtesy Donum Sculpture Collection
Warburg first got bit by the art bug during his 29-year stint living in China. He and his wife Mei now spend most of the year in Hong Kong. But in the the ’90s, he explains, he lived in Beijing where the art scene was really exploding. “You could feel all that energy and I got caught up in it. I got to know a lot of the artists and started buying a few works,” he says.
Over the years, his collecting evolved, and his friendships with artists like Zeng Fanzhi, Wang Guangyi, Zhan Wang, and Ling Jian meant also owning their works.
More than 20 years later, Warbug says his latest collection was assembled with different kinds of criteria. “It has to be something that fits the DNA of Donum, something of the same quality, that imparts a special feeling,” he says. But diversity is also important: “I’m Danish, and I lived in China for 29 years, my wife is Chinese and lived in Australia for many years. And we love traveling, so we wanted to represent all these different cultures. It was important to us that this should be a global collection.”
Keith Haring, King and Queen (1987). Photo by Gregory Gorman. Image courtesy Donum Sculpture Collection
To be sure, the collection boasts plenty of high-profile names, but Warburg insists that it ultimately reflects personal taste. “I think its important to realize it’s a very personal collection,” he says. “It’s not a professional or curated collection. We’ve been buying and collecting what we feel is right for here.”
Asked if he and Mei enlist the services of any advisors, Warburg says, “We do have some close friends that we work with. But at the end of the day it’s our decision.”
By the end of the year, the Donum collection is set to number around 40 works, including sculptures and installations by Tracey Emin, Lynda Benglis, Elmgreen and Dragset, Ghada Amer, Sopheap Pich, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Jeppe Hein, Wim Delvoye, Mark Manders, Richard Hudson, and Gao Weigang.
Donum Wine Label by Ai Weiwei. Image courtesy the artist and Donum Sculpture Collection.
A specially commissioned, life-size airplane by Anselm Kiefer was recently installed on the property. LA-based artist Doug Aitken is creating a giant wind chime in the eucalyptus grove on the grounds this fall. And Subodh Gupta’s People Tree, a 32-foot stainless steel banyan tree with utensils for leaves, is arriving in October, fresh off the artist’s retrospective at Monnaie de Paris this past summer.
Two of the artists have also responded directly to the Donum’s chief export: its wine. Ai Weiwei redesigned the label using the different animal heads of his Circle of Animals—Zodiac Heads sculpture to correspond with the year of each vintage. And Gupta’s sculpture Soma, named for the nectar of the gods in Hindu mythology, was specially commissioned in the shape of a Donum pinot noir bottle.