Wednesday 21 November 2012

But is it art?*

Paeans to perfume are a bit of a feature of this blog. This latest is triggered by a NYT interview with New York's Museum of Art and Design director Holly Hotchner and perfume curator Chandler Burr over the new show 'The Art of Scent'.

The article covers how perfume became a department at the MAD (Burr approached Hotchner, who says she considers perfume to fit within their remit, and to occupy a position analogous to photography in the 1970s) but perhaps the most interesting information is about how they are approaching the design. Rather than using packaging, bottle design and videos of ads and perfumers to deliver the show, it boils down to 12 alcoves in the gallery wall with sensors that distribute a puff of perfume when you put your head in them, and a couple of stations for other activities.

Going back over my posts, I found a quote from a 2007 review of Tania Sanchez and Luca Turin's Perfume: The Guide (now behind a paywall) that pondered how a perfume like Guerlain's Après l’Ondée could be displayed as part of "an exhibition of Edwardian art and design where it so obviously belongs, the olfactory equivalent of what Yeats called “the faint mixed tints of Conder”, alongside many other nearly contemporaneous manifestations of the beautiful pre-war cult of paleness?". While the MAD show encompasses 130 years of perfume (Jicky, from 1889, to Untitled (for Martin Margiela) from 2010) it treats them as artworks divorced from the social context that birthed them. It's still an idea I find intriguing.

*Ironic title.

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