Elephant, Daniel Firman, 2008

You don’t exactly know what to expect when you visit a winery, but one thing you don’t predict is an inverted elephant balancing on the tip of its trunk. This is the first indication that perhaps this is not your average Champagne tour. Reims has a number of champagne houses you can visit, but Domain Pommery adds a generous helping of contemporary art.

As part of the visit to its cellars, which are just a fraction of the 18km of tunnels carved into the ancient chalk quarries situated underneath the city, the house of Vranken Pommery welcomes you to take in a temporary exhibition showcasing the collection of the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, to mark the 30th anniversary of the regional art fund. The setting is challenging for an art exhibition because of the atmospheric conditions underground, but certainly adds mystery.

Daniel Firman’s Elephant is just the start of the labyrinth of the 30 works on show, which includes Stoning, a piece by Latifa Echakch, the winner of the Marcel Duchamp Prize 2013. The grandeur of the space can overwhelm some of the work, so there is a handy programme available, in French and English, to guide you through the show.

This show provides a unique opportunity in a singular setting and if you are a lover of art who likes Champagne or vice-versa, you can’t go far wrong enjoying the two together.

Tip: There are 116 steps to negotiate and little time to linger. The pieces aren’t identified with the title or the artist, so in order to take full advantage of the experience, spend a little time beforehand, familiarising yourself with what you are about to see using the programme.

Expérience Pommery #11- 30 Years of the FRAC, Until June 30th. Maison Pommery, 5 Place Général Gouraud, 51100 Reims. Daily 10 am- 5 pm. Reservation strongly recommended. From 12 euros. (Children under 10 free.) Tel: +33 3 26 61 62 63.

Originally published in the February- March 2014 issue of France Today