The Art of Scent: The evolution of modern perfumery

The Art of Scent: The evolution of modern perfumery

Mergim Özdamar
March 28, 2018

Can fragrance be considered art? According to former New York Times perfume critic and curator of olfactory art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City Chandler Burr, it indeed can be.

Istanbulites can experience this first-hand at the newly opened exhibition at Istanbul’74, which showcases 12 iconic fragrances from 1889 to 2012, starting with Aimé Guerlain’s Jicky and including Ernest Beaux’s Chanel No.5, Bernard Chant’s Aromatics Elixir, and Olivier Cresp’s Light Blue.

The exhibition shows fragrance in the broader context of aesthetic disciplines such as painting, sculpture, architecture, and music. It also portrays the continuously changing side of perfumes as artists experiment with different structures, materials, technologies, and styles.

“Perfumes follow artistic styles,” Burr told at the press meeting, associating scents with terms such as neo-classism, romanticism, and modernism most commonly used to classify other forms of art.  Applying such terminology allows visitors to better understand the works, what they communicate, and why they exist.

Each scent is presented to guests on paper strips in an all-white room with short descriptions written on the wall. For Chanel No.5, visitors learn how the perfume brought radical change to fragrances, while for Jicky's visitors learn of emotional undertones. Through these displays guests learn how aesthetic and cultural themes such as representation, abstraction, national identity, and nature are expressed through scents.

At times delightful, at times shocking, Istanbul’74’s exhibition shows how scents have a bigger effect on our lives than we ever thought.

The Art of Scent exhibition runs from March 23-April 13; you can find more information at www.istanbul74.com. Maçka Caddesi No.20/1 Teşvikiye, T: (0212) 243 39 48. 

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