Museum of Art and Design

Museum for Perfumes

Susana Ramudo

A scent can also be a work of art.

Exhibit The Art of Scent, 1889-2012. / Photo: Ric Kallaher.

The Museum of Arts and Design in New York presents The Art of Scent, 1889-2012 until February 2013. The exhibit elucidates the creation of scents and fragrances. Curator Chandler Burr traces the history of perfumes over the past 150 years, and the connection that exists between the ingredients that make up this olfactory experience.

, in charge of the Department of Olfactory Art, is also the author of the book The Emperor of Scent (Random House 2003), where he has expressed his reluctance to classify fragrances according to their initial elements such as citrus, fruits or flowers.

Two years ago, his knowledge and passion for aromas drove Burr to propose the creation of a department within the museum dedicated to the art of scent. The idea was so well received by Museum Director, Holly Hotchner that fragrances now occupy an appropriate place in the fabric of this museum.

The MAD exhibition presents 12 masterful scents. Fragrances in their purest state are set within a minimalist, quiet atmosphere, without jars or bottles to distract the public. Special lighting allows the sense of smell to develop fully, and to prepare for a journey through time, forgetting for a moment that you are inside the Jerome and Simona Chazen building, in the heart of Manhattan.

Exhibit The Art of Scent, 1889-2012. / Photos: Ric Kallaher.

The creators of these scents are artists and expert specialists, innovative in their work and always looking for ways to draw attention to it. They engage the sense of smell as the way to communicate their art and style, involving viewers in everything that surrounds them.

The exhibition space was designed by the architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, known for the design of Manhattan’s High Line in Chelsea, the development of Lincoln Center and other international projects. Architect Liz Diller was able to accommodate 15 creators and 12 historic scents from the world of perfume within a dreamy, delicate space.

The experts joined by the exhibition are: Aimé Guerlain (1834-1910), Ernest Beaux (1881-1961), Francis Fabron (1913-2005), Bernard Chant (1927-1987), Pierre Wargny (1947), Olivier Cresp (1955), Jacques Cavallier (1962), Annie Buzantian (1949), Alberto Morillas (1950), Carlos Banaïm (1944), Max Gavarry (1937), Clément Gavarry (1977), Jean-Claude Ellena (1947) and Daniela Andrier (1964).

The journey begins with Jicky, created by Aimé Guerlain in 1889 and continues with the acclaimed Chanel No. 5 from 1921, now promoted in its male version by actor Brad Pitt, L’Interdit from 1957, Aromatics Elixir of 1971, Drakkar Noir from 1982, Angel of 1992, L’Eau d’Issey from 1992, Pleasures 1995, Light Blue 2001, Prada Amber 2004, Osmanthe Yunnan 2006 and Untitled from 2010.

The display joins together 11 labels as diverse as Prada, Puig, Maison Martin Margiela, Hermes, Thierry Mugler, Estēe Lauder, Chanel, Givenchy and Guerlain with a common goal: to enjoy the different paths of creation for these exclusive smells.

The power of perfume – Each perfume, a woman

The power of perfume has captivated mankind since antiquity and has been the subject of more than a movie or book. Perfume creates an invisible force that surrounds everything, giving free rein to the imagination and creating an aura around the person who wears it.

Choosing a perfume is a process that requires adequate timing, since it reflects your personality and style. The aromas change drastically when they dry, and the same perfume may seem totally different depending on your skin type. That is why experts Francis Kurkdjian and Frederick Bouchardy advise that before you choose a perfume, you must live with it, see if it compliments your attitude, and more importantly, see if it can become an additional complement to your personality.

Many designers agree that women should have more than one perfume. This is the opinion of Bouchardy and Yann Vasnier, creators of Lola Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford’s Santal Blush. For them, women should start with an aroma or essential base from where to grow the other scents in their collection. This she will change according to the occasion, time of year and the clothes she wears. Her fragrance is the accessory that unites all the elements that complete a look, a feeling.

Exhibit The Art of Scent, 1889-2012. / Photos: Ric Kallaher.

Frida Giannini
, a designer at Gucci, chooses her scent depending on where she is going, and what she is wearing on a particular day. The scent that seems right during the hot summer months may not be adequate for winter, and it will probably not become the perfect accessory for cashmere or leather. That is why Giannini suggests that, if you have a favorite designer, you should test his or her creations first, since fragrances usually evoke the same taste or similar sense of design. Ann Gottlieb, a perfume designer for the French house Dior, agrees.

However, nowadays our perception of a perfume is influenced by the color, the shape of the bottle, the packaging or the celebrity who endorses it, external elements that often go beyond simple marketing, casting a shadow over the scent itself. With this exhibition, MAD pays tribute to these scent creators, recognizing them as artists in their own right.


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