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Brief Published: 23 Nov 2012

The Art of Scent, New York


The first museum exhibition dedicated to exploring the design of perfume has opened at New York’s Museum of Art and Design (MAD), called The Art of Scent.

The exhibition presents 12 perfumes as masterpieces of olfactory art. Created between 1889 and 2012, the works were chosen for their impact on changing the way the world is perceived through olfaction. Putting an emphasis on the craft of the perfume creators, the exhibition provides an insight into their intricate processes while also charting major stylistic and cultural developments in scent design.

Works include Jicky by Aime Guerlain (1889), L’Interdit by Francis Fabron (1957) and Untitled by Daniela Andrier (2010). L’Eau d’Issey (1992), created by French perfumer Jacques Cavallier, is hailed for its success in creating a minimalist scent for the Japanese culture, where there is no tradition of scent.

MAD director Holly Hotchner described the exhibition as “game changing” for scent as an artistic medium. Reinforcing this, Chandler Burr, curator of olfactory art at MAD, said the exhibition aims to make olfactory art as accepted an artistic medium as photography has become over the past 40 years.


Innovation is pivotal to many of the works, with some chosen for their creators’ bold use of new materials and technologies. But Burr explained that they, like art, also represent different aesthetic schools and eras.

The main exhibition is near void of all visual indicators. Instead, visitors are invited to approach the 12 scent machines set into the walls and experience the works by concentrating only on their sense of smell. In contrast, the second room of the exhibition is a large table with testers of all 12 works. Visitors are encouraged to explore the social aspect of choosing scents by discussing each one and their comparative differences.

The Art of Scent runs from November 20 2012 until February 24 2013.

New York Museum of Art and Design