120627 - Sol Lewit, Barolo Chapel, 1999
You don’t expect to see a masterpiece of contemporary art amid rows of choice vines in Italy’s Piemonte region. That’s exactly what you’ll find, though, atop a hill just outside the town of La Morra — a tiny chapel, called the Capella di Sol LeWitt — David Tremlett, whose colorful abstract exterior might seem more at home in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.But to the workers who earn their living in the surrounding vineyards of the Langhe district, the area famous for the Nebbiolo grape found in Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto and Barbera wines, this paradoxical structure is a tribute to the long winemaking tradition of this land.Credit brothers Bruno and Marcello Ceretto — two of Italy’s most prominent wine producers — and two contemporary artists, one American and one British, for envisioning the unlikely symmetry between modern art and the Langhe heritage of winemaking.When the Cerettos purchased the surrounding vineyard in 1976, the chapel, though not old by Italian standards, was dangerously close to ruin. Santa Maria della Grazie, as it was known then, had been constructed in 1914 as a small church as well as a shelter for workers from the thunderstorms that occasionally pummel the hills and valleys of the Langhe. Never consecrated and rarely visited, the neglected chapel deteriorated from decades of exposure to the alternating hot summers and cold winters of the area. Its crumbling façade became a potential danger to the workers passing by on their way to the adjacent vineyards. Its demolition seemed imminent.The decision to save the chapel was made, appropriately enough, over a glass of wine. In 1997, David Tremlett, an internationally acclaimed British artist who happened to have a passion for excellent wines, was visiting with the Cerettos after having participated in an exhibition of contemporary art at nearby Castello di Barolo. When Bruno Ceretto asked Tremlett what he should do with the chapel, the artist proposed transforming it into a symbol celebrating the vineyards, wines and people of the Langhe.The Cerettos aren’t strangers to the harmony between modern art and traditional culture. The architectural focal point of their winery Bricco Rocche is a large glass and steel sculpture, called Il Cubo. The family readily commissioned Tremlett to restore and decorate the decaying chapel.Tremlett immediately enlisted his friend, American artist Sol LeWitt, to assist with the project. LeWitt shared both Tremlett’s passion for wine and his vision for a contemporary interpretation of the winemaking tradition.”The two artists were conquered by the simplicity and respect of the tradition of my family and the people that live on those hills,” Roberta Ceretto explains. She is the daughter of Bruno and, along with her brother and cousins, is now actively involved in running the family’s wineries. “The philosophy at the base of the project with Sol and David was to create a place, unique and joyful as the chapel is, to share with the whole community, and we think that we reached this goal.”The exterior, designed and decorated by LeWitt, strikes you with its vibrant geometric forms — all painted in rich blue, green, yellow, orange or red and framed by the natural bricks of the chapel. Horizontal scallops evoke the surrounding hills of vineyards. Bold rectangles and vertical lines accentuate the chapel’s architecture. The vivid colors express celebration.Tremlett’s contribution, the interior, captures the more spiritual nature of the winemaking tradition. On one large panel, tones of brown and green — the colors of the soil and vines — harmonize into one another. Opposite, a muted red gains intensity on another panel and suggests the maturing grapes. On the adjacent walls, white melds into yellow and then into orange, and you sense the changing seasons and life-giving sun. At the far end of the chapel, a triangle of pale blue represents, perhaps, the nourishing rain. And overhead, the most fervent reds symbolize the pinnacle of the harvest — the deep-colored Barolo wine produced from the surrounding vineyards.Perhaps as proof that for some people appreciation of contemporary art is an acquired taste, the chapel’s makeover wasn’t without its critics when it was completed in 1999. According to Roberta Ceretto, some of the locals considered it a bit too extravagant at first. But now, she assures, it has become accepted as a symbol for the Langhe. Like the wines it celebrates, the Capella di Sol LeWitt — David Tremlett is bold and one of a kind.And if you doubt the artists’ passion behind their creation, consider this: For their restoration of the chapel, they were paid with bottles of wine!”Both LeWitt and Tremlett love wine, so we proposed to pay them simply in Barolo,” Roberta says, “One bottle a week for the rest of their lives of Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate. It’s one of our best Barolos and the one that grows in the vineyard around the chapel.”—Michael Slagle

120627 - Sol Lewit, Barolo Chapel, 1999

You don’t expect to see a masterpiece of contemporary art amid rows of choice vines in Italy’s Piemonte region. That’s exactly what you’ll find, though, atop a hill just outside the town of La Morra — a tiny chapel, called the Capella di Sol LeWitt — David Tremlett, whose colorful abstract exterior might seem more at home in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.But to the workers who earn their living in the surrounding vineyards of the Langhe district, the area famous for the Nebbiolo grape found in Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto and Barbera wines, this paradoxical structure is a tribute to the long winemaking tradition of this land.Credit brothers Bruno and Marcello Ceretto — two of Italy’s most prominent wine producers — and two contemporary artists, one American and one British, for envisioning the unlikely symmetry between modern art and the Langhe heritage of winemaking.When the Cerettos purchased the surrounding vineyard in 1976, the chapel, though not old by Italian standards, was dangerously close to ruin. Santa Maria della Grazie, as it was known then, had been constructed in 1914 as a small church as well as a shelter for workers from the thunderstorms that occasionally pummel the hills and valleys of the Langhe. Never consecrated and rarely visited, the neglected chapel deteriorated from decades of exposure to the alternating hot summers and cold winters of the area. Its crumbling façade became a potential danger to the workers passing by on their way to the adjacent vineyards. Its demolition seemed imminent.The decision to save the chapel was made, appropriately enough, over a glass of wine. In 1997, David Tremlett, an internationally acclaimed British artist who happened to have a passion for excellent wines, was visiting with the Cerettos after having participated in an exhibition of contemporary art at nearby Castello di Barolo. When Bruno Ceretto asked Tremlett what he should do with the chapel, the artist proposed transforming it into a symbol celebrating the vineyards, wines and people of the Langhe.The Cerettos aren’t strangers to the harmony between modern art and traditional culture. The architectural focal point of their winery Bricco Rocche is a large glass and steel sculpture, called Il Cubo. The family readily commissioned Tremlett to restore and decorate the decaying chapel.Tremlett immediately enlisted his friend, American artist Sol LeWitt, to assist with the project. LeWitt shared both Tremlett’s passion for wine and his vision for a contemporary interpretation of the winemaking tradition.”The two artists were conquered by the simplicity and respect of the tradition of my family and the people that live on those hills,” Roberta Ceretto explains. She is the daughter of Bruno and, along with her brother and cousins, is now actively involved in running the family’s wineries. “The philosophy at the base of the project with Sol and David was to create a place, unique and joyful as the chapel is, to share with the whole community, and we think that we reached this goal.”The exterior, designed and decorated by LeWitt, strikes you with its vibrant geometric forms — all painted in rich blue, green, yellow, orange or red and framed by the natural bricks of the chapel. Horizontal scallops evoke the surrounding hills of vineyards. Bold rectangles and vertical lines accentuate the chapel’s architecture. The vivid colors express celebration.Tremlett’s contribution, the interior, captures the more spiritual nature of the winemaking tradition. On one large panel, tones of brown and green — the colors of the soil and vines — harmonize into one another. Opposite, a muted red gains intensity on another panel and suggests the maturing grapes. On the adjacent walls, white melds into yellow and then into orange, and you sense the changing seasons and life-giving sun. At the far end of the chapel, a triangle of pale blue represents, perhaps, the nourishing rain. And overhead, the most fervent reds symbolize the pinnacle of the harvest — the deep-colored Barolo wine produced from the surrounding vineyards.Perhaps as proof that for some people appreciation of contemporary art is an acquired taste, the chapel’s makeover wasn’t without its critics when it was completed in 1999. According to Roberta Ceretto, some of the locals considered it a bit too extravagant at first. But now, she assures, it has become accepted as a symbol for the Langhe. Like the wines it celebrates, the Capella di Sol LeWitt — David Tremlett is bold and one of a kind.And if you doubt the artists’ passion behind their creation, consider this: For their restoration of the chapel, they were paid with bottles of wine!”Both LeWitt and Tremlett love wine, so we proposed to pay them simply in Barolo,” Roberta says, “One bottle a week for the rest of their lives of Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate. It’s one of our best Barolos and the one that grows in the vineyard around the chapel.”—Michael Slagle