Ponts des Arts: Thibault Pontallier & Arthur De Villepin’s Art & Wine Passion

As the contemporary art market continues to soar and art items become increasingly in demand globally, various forms of lifestyle collaboration ideas have taken place using art as its key selling point to attract both the high net worth individuals as well as the masses to delve deeper into the finer things in life.

Pont des Arts, translated, means ‘bridge of arts’ and that is exactly what founders Thibault Pontallier and Arthur de Villepin have sought to do with their exquisite range of liquor and spirits produced in collaboration with established artists such as Zao Wou-Ki and Yue Minjun. We find out more about the origin of their partnership and their collaborative efforts with such big-name artists.

Could you tell us how the two of you started working together and how the partnership came about?

We met in Hong Kong 6 years ago, with both of us being passionate about art and wine. We wanted to share our roots and culture, and what France does best with the rest of the world. Our goal was to spread the word about what we deem to be very important in life: enjoying every moment and following our passions.

The idea of combining our two domains of expertise and passions came naturally since we both had the entrepreneurship spirit and both wanted to create something new, different, innovative which represents the lifestyle we believe in.

Arthur and Thibault’s meeting in Hong Kong 6 years ago has spurred the creation of Pont des Arts

Please tell us about Pont des Arts and the concept behind it – how did this idea of “bridging” wine and art come about? What are you aiming to achieve and what is the long-term goal for the brand/company?

Pont des Arts is about bridging Art and wine, the East and the West, the new generation with the old generation, and to combine the two worlds of Art one and wine one, because they are not so different from each other. Making wine is an art as well, like an artist in front of his painting, we need the same time and patience to make sure we achieve the best result possible; it is also a work of passion.

Thus far, we have worked with some of the best and most famous artists, including Zao Wou-Ki, Yue Minjun and Miquel Barceló in collaboration with the most exceptional winemakers in France. Thibault’s father use to be the general manager and winemaker of Chateau Margaux for 33 years and he was very close to Thibault, so he advised us and tasted more than 700 parcels of wines with us, to make sure we were making the best wine possible.

With regards to the concept, it is not just a beautiful bottle with a label on it, it is beyond that. Each painting that you have on the bottle is a representation of the wine you have inside. We went to the artist’s atelier to choose the paintings with them and think about the best combination.

Our goal is to become an iconic brand in different countries, to be the best in Art and wine, to expand our range and to open different markets like the South American and North American market, as well as to produce Italian wines for and to expand our spirits range, for example. We want people from different countries and cultures to identify themselves in Pont des Arts and to share the same philosophy and lifestyle, no matter where they come from. To build bridges everywhere and become an international brand.

The Yue Minjun Collection Launched in 2012
A bottle of the Pont des Arts Armanagnac designed by Zao Wou-Ki

As part of your range – in addition to wine – you also create spirits, such as Cognac and Armagnac. Why did you decide to also release spirits alongside your range of wines? What other spirits would you also be interested in creating?

We don’t want to limit ourselves. The wine is the core of our brand and it was a logical choice to start with, because of Thibault’s background and knowledge. However, our goal is always to look for the best products, to search for rarity, and to discover new things.

The market is evolving very fast; the mentalities are changing, as are the tastes. The idea is to follow what we love and to try to satisfy the customer at the same time. So far, we have done Armagnac and Cognac, but we will happily follow with whisky or something else if there is an occasion.

People need to understand we are not a wine brand per se, but a luxury lifestyle brand. We have a certain way of looking at life, which translates to our wines and spirits. We want people to feel that with the Pont des Arts collection and to travel with us through the Art and the wines. We respect tradition, but simultaneously have a modern approach, so we are willing to expand our projects. What we are selling is an experience, not merely a shelf product. We want to shape the market as they look at wines and spirits, and to grow a community that understands our values.

You’ve previously worked with two very established Chinese artists: Yue Minjun and Zao Wou-Ki. How did you come to select them and what were some of the challenges you faced?

Zao Wou Ki was a very close friend of Arthur’s family. We love to see it as a project with heart and values. We started with Zao Wou-Ki because he was the perfect representation of our concept. French-Chinese, he embodies the bridge between two cultures the love wines and spirits. The challenge is to break the traditional wine market and impose ourselves with a new concept and new values – to break the barriers.

Could you tell us a bit about the process of creating one of these exclusive wines? How does it differ from the many wines currently in the market?

Thibault along with his father and other winemakers tasted over 700 parcels to make the right assemblage for each wine. Our wines are unique and with the Pont des Arts fingerprint; freshness, elegance, balance are the key words. Our concept is unique because we are the only brand to offer a Bordeaux alongside a Burgundy. Our goal is really to promote different regions and to educate people about wine and art.

The Pont des Arts collection case featuring the company’s 2012 Yue Minjun bottles.

Your bottles are currently in quite a few countries, with about half of these countries being in Asia. Would you say that Asia is currently your biggest regional market? Do you have plans to expand to other countries? Where are you next looking to expand to?

We are currently in more than 22 countries, with Asia being the biggest market. However, we also opened in Switzerland, Spain, Canada, New Zealand in 2016 and we aim to target the US later on. We are also involved in different art fairs worldwide such as in Tokyo, Taipei and London.