The Art of Scent 1889-2012


New York, NY


Developed under the patronage of luxury brands, the design of perfume has historically been overlooked as a significant creative practice. Yet, over the last century the industry has flourished resulting in new, previously unimaginable olfactory creations. The advent of new technology has led to unprecedented materials and processes and, as a result, fragrance design has evolved from a parochial craft to a global discipline. The Art of Scent is among the first museum exhibitions to trace this development, exploring the design and aesthetics of olfactory arts through the presentation of twelve pivotal works. In order to address a sense that is rarely introduced in the museum environment the design eliminates all reference to the visual materials typically associated with perfume, most notably, packaging and advertisements. Instead, visitors enter a seemingly empty white gallery punctuated by a series of sculpted wall depressions. Visitors are then invited to lean into the wall, trespassing traditional museum boundaries and triggering the release of a scented stream of air. In addition to scent, the organic wall surface pulses with sound and ghostly text projections. A second smaller gallery offers a more social environment. A thirteen-foot long glass table anchors the room and supports twenty-four suspended vessels featuring the same twelve works in liquid form. Here visitors are given the opportunity to compare and discuss their experiences, as well as record their impressions through an interactive interface. Curated by Chandler Burr and presented by the Museum of Arts and Design.

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