James Turrell Whiskey Decanter to be Auctioned by Sotheby’s


December 8, 2023

James Turrell Eight Decades Decanter and Case_1(1)

American artist James Turrell, renowned for his work with light and space, turned 80 in May this year. To toast that milestone and pay a poetic tribute to generations of craftspeople, he collaborated with The Glenturret, Scotland’s Oldest Working Distillery, and Lalique to create his very first ever whisky decanter: Eight Decades.

Limited to 80 decanters worldwide, The Glenturret has held back one artist’s proof of the decanter – proof #008 – which will be auctioned by Sotheby’s New York Dec. 9 during their Whisky & Whiskey – Festive Spirits and American Classics Auction.

The decanter’s design has a pared down silhouette and is topped by a pyramidal deep blue crystal stopper. It is inspired by Ancient Egypt, where the careful lighting of its monuments served ceremonial purposes. It’s an apt signature from Turrell who is known as the artist of light. The auction lot includes proof decanter #008, filled with the whisky specially created for the occasion by The Glenturret’s Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno, as well as three of James Turrell’s hand sketches from the decanter design phase, all signed by the artist. Lalique and The Glenturret will also invite the buyer to visit both the glassmaker’s factory in Alsace and the distillery in Crieff to observe the making-of process, culminating in a dining experience at the Michelin-starred The Glenturret Lalique restaurant.

Realizing James Turrell’s vision for Eight Decades required an immense amount of design work, from drawings to mold manufacturing, hot glass trials and prototypes, and the artist’s proof is testament to that. The shape and color of the bottle, which has a neck injected with violet crystal, created a technical difficulty for the Lalique artisans in Alsace, ensuring that the crystal be evenly distributed to offer a transparency that would magnify the amber-coloured whisky inside.

The whisky has been drawn from eight casks, ranging from 1987 through to 1998, chosen to represent a different facet of James Turrell’s life, his character and vocation. There are aromas of dark dried fruit, chocolate orange, ginger cake, red berries, fresh apples and softer oak. On the palate, gentle wood spices, rich fruit cake laced with treacle and honeycomb, balanced with burnished oak, provide a long, mellow finish.

All proceeds from the sale of the proof decanter (estimate $60,000 – $100,000) will be donated to the Roden Crater Foundation, which funds James Turrell’s largest ongoing work; a controlled environment in Northern Arizona’s Painted Desert for the experiencing and contemplation of light created within a 400,000-year-old volcanic cinder cone. It is, essentially, a vast naked-eye observatory for viewing the stars, and Mr Turrell, who was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2013, has dedicated himself to the Roden Crater since acquiring it in 1979.

“We feel honored to be working with James Turrell – a lot of hard work and passion have gone into creating the Eight Decades decanter,” John Laurie, Managing Director of The Glenturret, said in a news release. “This artist’s proof and the hand sketches that will be auctioned alongside are particularly special – it presents the unique opportunity to have a piece of James Turrell art in your very own home! The fact that all proceeds from the auction will be donated to charity is very important to us; we hope it will raise a substantial amount to support this cause.”

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Global Head of Spirits, said. “The Glenturret’s collaboration with James Turrell is a new level in terms of artist collaborations within the world of whisky. A partnership between Scotland’s Oldest Working Distillery and one of the art world’s most prominent contemporary figures will bring new appeal to the category that stretches the boundaries of whisky collecting as we currently know it. We are glad to be supporting The Glenturret for the third time this year on another auction project.”

For full information, refer to Sotheby’s website.