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Tuscan winery picks Canada’s Rodney Graham to design vintage wine labels

This wine bottle with a poem on it by internationally famous artist Rodney Graham is being auctioned in Toronto on Friday.

Lapo Quagli

Ars longa! In vino veritas! Each spring, beginning in 2009, the distinguished Tuscan winery Ornellaia has commissioned an internationally renowned artist to create custom labels for a limited number of special large-size bottles of its finest newly released vintage.

Each vintage is ascribed a character, quality or theme that the artist interprets. The bottles then are sold at a gala black-tie dinner and live auction conducted by Sotheby's, the money raised going to a prominent cultural institution, usually one in the artist's home country.

This year, for the first time, a Canadian creator got the nod – none other than the eternally febrile polymath Rodney Graham, 65, of Vancouver – and it will be the Art Gallery of Ontario reaping the benefits of the auction occurring on Thursday in Toronto.

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Graham's theme was a daunting one, "Infinity" – realized by creating a variety of geometric-shaped labels on which he wrote light verse. "Some of the poems … are about wine, some are written under the influence of it," notes Graham. "A few rhyme and all are written in a humorous vein." Or should that be on a humorous vine?

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