perfume and art: 6 posts

Perfume in Art and Design : Highlights from The Perfumative Zurich

What happens when a group of people from different disciplines, such as chemistry, political science, philosophy, sociology, art, sculpture, film, literature and perfumery, come together to discuss scent?  This month I attended The Perfumative conference organized by the Zürich University of the Arts, and it was exactly such an event. It was open to the public and the combination of talks, freestyle discussions and art installations based around scent made The Perfumative a vibrant and inspired gathering.

My contribution to the conference centered around scent, culture and the way perfume writing has evolved over the past years, becoming a legitimate subject comparable to similar discussions in the related fields of fashion, wine and food. You can see the range of topics covered in the program, and since the talks were recorded, I’ll share the link here once they go online. Edit: the video recording of my talk is now available at the conference website, https://perfumative.zhdk.ch/vortraege/ and scroll down.

For now, however, I wanted to share with you some of the observations inspired by the talks and discussions. Please feel free to contribute your own thoughts.

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In the Realm of Senses & Art Event : June 16

I’m collaborating with the multi-sensory art project called In the Realm of Senses. The idea behind it is to explore the sensory dimensions of various art forms, discover how stimulating one sense enhances the experience of our other senses, and to create a platform where artists and participants can meet and experiment together. As you can see, it’s an extended version of what I do with Bois de Jasmin, so I’m happy to support this initiative. It has long been my belief that olfaction, the overlooked sense, can make our sensory experiences richer and that paying more attention to it gives more facets and colors to our surroundings.


In The Realm of Senses was conceived by Jeff Yang, a Chicago-based violinist, with a fascinating background in classical music and engineering. We’re in the early stages of taking the project off the ground, but among the perfumers involved are Ralf Schwieger and Christophe Laudamiel. If you’re in Chicago on June 16, 2018, please don’t miss our fundraising event.

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Art in Perfume Ads

Over the past couple of weeks, some of you have brought up the topic of perfume ads, and I couldn’t think of a better way to continue the discussion than by sharing Tinsel Creation’s Art and Perfume Advertising. It’s a series of articles and short posts exploring the evolution of perfume advertisements, the inspirations their creators drew from various art forms, and many other themes. Tinsel Creation is a blog by Jessica, whose perfume reviews you might know from Now Smell This. And if you don’t know this already, Jessica is a professional art historian and curator, and she’s perfectly qualified to explore this fascinating subject.

nuit-de-noel-1961

Jessica started her Art and Perfume Advertising series several years ago, so you have plenty of enjoyable reading ahead of you. For instance, you can learn how Estée Lauder’s Pleasures advertisement echoes the frothy charm of The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard or ponder the similarities between a 1966 photograph of Jane Fonda on the beach and Jennifer Aniston’s fragrance image. Today the majority of a perfume’s budget is spent on the ads, and it’s interesting to reflect on which traditions they draw and what they mean to convey to us, the viewers and fragrance wearers.

Our reader Sofie proposes this question to you: has there been an ad that inspired you to try a perfume?

Image: Caron, 1961.

The Art of Scent 1889-2012 : The Museum of Arts and Design Exhibit

The Museum of Arts and Design will debut its first fragrance exhibit in November of 2012. “The Art of Scent, 1889-2012 will lead visitors through an olfactory experience that showcases the artistry inherent to creating a fragrance. Featuring twelve perfumes that have significantly impacted the medium, the exhibition will explore major developments in the style and design of fragrance and provide an unprecedented behind-the-scenes glimpse into the labor-intensive process of crafting a work of olfactory art.”

“Highlights from the exhibition, organized by MAD’s Curator of Olfactory Art Chandler Burr, include: Jicky by Aimé GuerlainChanel N˚ 5 by Ernest Beaux, Aromatics Elixir by Bernard Chant, Angel by Olivier Cresp, Pleasures by Annie Buzantian and Alberto Morillas, and Untitled by Daniela Andrier, among others… Other confirmed works of olfactory art featured in the exhibition include: Drakkar Noir (1982), by Pierre Wargnye; L’Eau d’Issey (1992), by Jacques Cavallier; cK One (1994), by Alberto Morillas and Harry Frémont; and Prada (2003), by Carlos Benaim and Clément Gavarry.”

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Schiaparelli Shocking : Vintage and Modern Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The Muse

Elsa Schiaparelli was a designer who set lasting trends in fashion with her richly embroidered jackets, shoe shaped hats and lobster dresses, but I discovered her whimsical side through Shocking, a perfume she released in 1937. Shocking was a dazzling collaboration between Schiap, as she was known, Jean Carles, who created the perfume, and the Surrealist artists Marcel Vertes and Salvador Dali through whose drawings the sultry fragrance came to life.

This month, the Metropolitan Museum in New York opened the exhibit “Schiaparelli & Prada, Impossible Conversations.” Running until August 19th, the collection explores the work of two designers in a compare-and-contrast setting. It was the first time I’ve seen Schiaparelli’s work close up, and I was mesmerized. The clothes weren’t simply beautiful; they offered a glimpse into the designer’s vibrant imagination.

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