Bernard Magrez: a connoisseur of woody notes
Bordeaux businessman, oenologist and wine magnate, Bernard Magrez is also a patron of the arts.
Bernard Magrez is one of those people whose destiny seems to have been written in the stars. He left school at age 16 to work in a sawmill and then at a wine estate. At 25 he became a spirits merchant. His business flourished in the 1980s, and in 2000, he sold his company for such a prof- it that he was able to buy some Bordeaux wine estates, eventually becoming “the man who owns 41 châteaux” in France and abroad, from Chile to Napa Valley. Yet his thirst for success is not merely Rabelaisian. In his case, the art of business led to art in the broadest sense. “Thirty years ago I started a collection of 19th-century bronzes and Flemish paintings. Later on, an encounter with Bernard Buffet stimulated my interest in modern and contemporary art.” In 2010, he founded the Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez with the aim of offering residencies to young artists and organizing writing competitions and con- certs as part of the Grandes Heures de Saint- Émilion festival. “My sensibility developed through listening to Mozart’s violin sonatas and concertos,” admits this patron of the arts. His love of Mozart and his friend- ship with an instrument maker from the Vosges led to a new quest: that of a Stradivarius that he came across in London in 2011 and named Château Fombrauge— “Antonio Stradivari said that people could give these instruments names, and this one didn’t have one yet.” For over a year now, the violin made in Cremona in 1713 has been in the skilled hands of French concert violinist Nicolas Dautricourt, who has made it sing in concert halls around the world, from the Salle Cortot to the Lincoln Center. “When Bernard Magrez entrusted me with his Stradivarius, it was a turning point in my career. Not only musically, because this instrument has an indescribable sound, but also for the trust he placed in me and the solid base that it has pro- vided for me in my career as a soloist.”