Center of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Art and Design

Have you ever been curious about a perfume museum, which pays tribute to scent, rather than the tangible accoutrement of perfumery, such as ads and bottles? Chandler Burr takes on a new role– a Curator of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. More information below.

New York (December 9, 2010) — The Museum of Arts and Design announced today that it will launch the Center of Olfactory Art, marking the first time an art museum will dedicate a department to the art of scent. The Center will support exhibition and program development and provide opportunities for audiences to engage directly with prominent artists in the field. The Center will be led by former New York Times scent critic Chandler Burr, who joins the Museum’s staff as its—and the nation’s—first Curator of Olfactory Art. Mr. Burr, whose appointment is effective immediately, is currently organizing the Museum’s fall 2011 exhibition The Art of Scent, 1889-2011.

“Olfactory art is a field that has been overlooked historically. Its position today among art historians, museum curators, and even the general public is essentially equivalent to that of photography thirty years ago—virtually unrecognized as an art form in its own right,” said Holly Hotchner, the Museum’s Nanette L. Laitman Director. “MAD’s mission is to examine contemporary creativity across all media—both traditional and non-traditional—and to deconstruct the hierarchical boundaries that have existed between artistic genres. The Center of Olfactory Art will be the first resource of its kind, focused on broadening audience experience and understanding of the art of scent.”

The Center’s exhibition programming will focus on showcasing the work of major scent artists, such as Jean-Claude Ellena, Ernest Beaux, and Jacques Cavallier, and will explore key trends in olfactory art, including how synthetic molecules have revolutionized the art form and the aesthetic, moral, and ecological issues faced over time in the reformulation of olfactory works. The Center will serve as a public forum for lectures and workshops on issues related to olfactory art and the role of scent in daily life. In the Open Studios at MAD, visitors will have the opportunity to meet scent artists, observe the creation of new fragrances, and discuss aspects of scent as an artistic medium and cultural phenomenon. The Center of Olfactory Art will also launch partnerships with design schools and other academic institutions that include the study of scent, culture, and design.

“I am honored to be joining MAD’s interdisciplinary curatorial team and to be leading the museum’s new Center of Olfactory Art,” said Chandler Burr. “Olfactory art speaks to the sense of smell just as visual art speaks to the sense of sight, and visitors will experience works at the Museum by smelling them. The Center will present a range of interactive programs that will explore the groundbreaking innovations of scent artists today and the artistry and craftsmanship inherent in the creation of olfactory art.”

As MAD’s first Curator of Olfactory Art, Burr will work with the Museum’s senior curatorial staff to develop exhibitions and programs that illuminate scent as an art form. The first exhibition planned, The Art of Scent, 1889-2011, will allow visitors to experience ten seminal works by some of the greatest scent artists of the late-19th, 20th and early-21st centuries. Burr will curate a series of lectures open to the public in the MAD Theater that will bring together scent artists with major creative figures in the scent industry. He will organize talks with perfumers who will lead interactive lectures, in which participants will learn about various raw materials that constitute fragrances, such as Ugandan vanilla, Peruvian pink peppercorn, Laotian benzoin, and Rwandan geranium, and will curate a series of lectures and workshops that bring the work of distinguished scent artists to life in MAD’s Open Studio and artist-in-residence programs.


Chandler Burr is a scent critic, writer, and lecturer. From 2006 to 2010, Burr served as The New York Times’ first Perfume Critic, writing the “Scent Notes” column as well as contributing articles on the perfume industry to the Times Business Day section. He has authored two books on perfume: “The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris & New York” (2009), which began as an article for The New Yorker magazine, and “The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses” (2003), which explores a maverick biophysicist’s theory of how the human sense of smell functions. Burr holds a Masters in International Economics and Japan Studies from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and studied international relations at l’Institut d’études politiques in Paris and Chinese history at Central Institute of Foreign Nationalities in Beijing.


The Museum of Arts and Design explores how craftsmanship, art, and design intersect in the visual arts today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting edge technologies.

The Museum’s exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by creative and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1950 to the present day.

At the center of the Museum’s mission is education. The Museum’s dynamic new facility features classrooms and studios for master classes, seminars, and workshops for students, families and adults. Three open artist studios engage visitors in the creative processes of artists at work and enhance the exhibition programs. Lectures, films, performances and symposia related to the Museum’s collection and topical subjects affecting the world of contemporary art, craft and design are held in a renovated 144-seat auditorium.

From press release


  • Archived under: News


  • Carla: Hurrah! Was this Burr’s idea? He’s done a lot to make more people aware of the beauty, art and entertainment of perfume. December 10, 2010 at 7:11am Reply

  • k-amber: Dear Victoria,
    I wish I could visit there! I have learned ‘Des gantiers parfumeurs’ at the Middle Ages and Renaissance section of an exhibition held in Tokyo. I like to know the modern one in detail!
    I enjoy your reviews as always.

    Kaori December 10, 2010 at 3:55am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Hi Victoria,

    This is wonderful news as I think it ibes credence to the concept of fragrance as an art form. I look forward to seeing you there ! December 10, 2010 at 9:21am Reply

  • meg: wonderful news! i look forward to visiting in 2011. December 10, 2010 at 10:36am Reply

  • Olfactoria: I think this is wonderful! I can’t wait to go to New York to visit the museum myself. A trip for the exhibition in November is a must for me! It is a great moment of recognition for perfume as an art form. December 10, 2010 at 9:04am Reply

  • Victoria: @k-amber
    Dear Kaori, and of course, now that you’ve mentioned the exhibit in Tokyo, I want to go there too. Sounds very interesting! December 10, 2010 at 9:58am Reply

  • Victoria: @Carla
    I believe so, it sounds like the exhibit will go live next year. December 10, 2010 at 9:59am Reply

  • Victoria: @Olfactoria
    New York museum scene is definitely impressive! Have you been here before? December 10, 2010 at 10:00am Reply

  • Victoria: @Madelyn E
    I am sure we will meet there! 🙂 December 10, 2010 at 10:01am Reply

  • Olfactoria: Oh, sure. I have been to NY often, I am an absolute americanophile! I always wanted to come to the US to live, but that doesn’t seem to be in my cards. I try to visit once a year at least, though. December 10, 2010 at 10:27am Reply

  • Victoria: @Olfactoria
    When I was a graduate student, I would come to NYC at least once a month (it was not too far.) Its vibrancy and energy would stimulate me very much. Even now I find it to be true.
    Among NYC museums, the Frick is my favorite. Such a beautiful location! I could spend a whole day there. December 10, 2010 at 11:01am Reply

  • Victoria: @meg
    Me too. I pass by the MAD almost every day, but I have not yet been inside. December 10, 2010 at 11:02am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Swoon! December 10, 2010 at 6:29pm Reply

  • Victoria: Lynn, totally! This is my favorite part:
    “He will organize talks with perfumers who will lead interactive lectures, in which participants will learn about various raw materials that constitute fragrances

    AND will curate a series of lectures and workshops that bring the work of distinguished scent artists to life in MAD’s Open Studio and artist-in-residence programs.” December 10, 2010 at 6:36pm Reply

  • curious: As someone with a lot of experience working in and with museums I am very curious about the funding for this exhibition and indeed the new curatorial department – can’t imagine Burr works for free. With museums forced to begging for money for exhibitions this raises a lot of questions for me. Does anybody know? MAD press is silent on this point, which is even more unusual. December 12, 2010 at 11:09am Reply

  • Victoria: I really do not have an answer to that. Do museums generally publish the funding sources for their exhibits? December 12, 2010 at 9:04pm Reply

  • curious: Yes it is very common to list the funding foundations and individuals. I am excited about this whole project, too – I just hope there isn’t too much influence from the industry or other commercial interests… December 13, 2010 at 2:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: We’ll see what shape the whole department takes. I am looking forward to the exhibit, and I wonder how they will feature scents. The lecture part sounds quite interesting, perhaps even more so to me personally than the scent exhibit itself. December 14, 2010 at 9:21am Reply

What do you think?

From the Archives

Latest Comments

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2020 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy