From the moment I landed in New York, I had been trying to get my butt up to the Museum of Arts and Design to see The Art of Scent 1889-2012 exhibition. I even managed to get up to Columbus Circle one day but got sidetracked by the shopping and then ran out of time (so typical of me). I finally got my ass into gear when I thought it was supposed to end on January 18th (I went on the 17th) – nothing like chasing down a deadline. Turns out it has been extended until Feb 17th. Anyway.
The Art of Scent is about ‘exploring the design and aesthetics of Olfactory art’. Or, appreciating the complexity of fragrance. The layers, the blending, the natural and synthetic ingredients. Considering that going to the museum is often a treat for visual, aural, and tactile senses, an exhibit in a stark white room with nothing but your nose was something special.
I really wish I had been able to take pictures to show you (that whole ‘no photos inside the exhibition’ is a bit of a downer), but thankfully google has me covered. The exhibition is designed so you walk the room and explore the 11 featured scents in chronological order. Each fragrance has its own little pod thing that you put your head into and it puffs the fragrance up into your nose. A little intimidating at first, but very cool. After that, you move to the next room and smell each fragrance in its oil form on a tester strip, just like at your local department store. There is also a wall that walks you through the 5 stages of development of Lancome Tresor – the wall spits out 5 little peel back tester strips that take you through what the perfumer did to get to the final product.
Some of the fragrances include Guerlain’s Jicky from 1889, Mugler’s Angel, Clinique’s Aromatics, and Drakkar Noir. Some I recognised, some I didn’t, and some I owned (and sadly got rid of when I moved). Smelling Chanel No. 5 reminded me of my mother-in-law because that is her signature scent. Estee Lauder Pleasures takes me to an old friend’s bedroom. Issey Miyake’s L’Eau De Issey was a gift from my parents when I graduated from high school, and I was instantly 17 again when it wafted into my nostrils. The olfactory really is a marvelous beast.
If you are in New York and have an appreciation for fragrance, have ever worn fragrance, purchased a fragrance, or just like things that smell good, I recommend you head to MAD. If that isn’t enough to get you into gear, then the Daniel Brush exhibition of diamonds and gold, and Doris Duke’s Shangri La collection of Islamic art will keep you inside from the cold for a little longer.