January 31, 2012

And now for something completely different...

I know I sometimes overload my readers with posts about art and exhibitions in museums and galleries.  But today I have a totally different kind of show to tell you about!  Intrigued by a recent review in The Wall Street Journal I headed down to Chelsea to see what, exactly, was going on at the Dillon Gallery on West 25th Street and their current exhibition "Phantosmia --All But the Smell"!

In an unusual, to say the least, take on the typical gallery show, the artist, Christophe Laudamiel, is actually a perfumer and the exhibit consists of seven "scent sculptures", each enclosed in a little tent, and meant to evoke different feelings or emotions.  Visitors are instructed to breath normally, not sniff or inhale too deeply, and to cleanse each scent from the nose by smelling one's skin before proceeding to the next tent. 

With museum style labels at the entrance to each "scent sculpture" we were advised of the title of the fragrance “At Your Own Risk,” “Fear,” “Fragile,” “The Last Virgin,” The Monkey and the Banana” and “The Whip and the Orchid”, what it comprised and how it might make us feel.  An overall scent, "Remembrance of Things Lost", inspired by the life Marlene Dietrich no less, covers the open space.

As far as I could tell, the "point" of the show was purely an olfactory experience and an effort to raise the science of scent to an art form.  Mr. Laudamiel does make the point that present day perfumers are much more restricted with the ingredients they can use compared to the industry of several years ago.  With global regulations and a new awareness of allergic reactions, modern day fragrances are composed of more synthetic and fewer true exotic oils as esters.  The result, according to the artist, is a less pure product and a change in the essence of the trade from art to business.  With this show Mr Laudamiel aims to raise our awareness of the fragrance industry and indeed the role of scent in our lives.  "Phantosmia - All But the Smell" is a fleeting exhibition, much like the aromas that surround us, but certainly worth poking one's nose into!

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