Friday…with ‘Perfume’ at Somerset House

August 4, 2017

Filed Under : Art - exhibitions - London - Summer

This week I was invited by Somerset House to experience their current exhibition ‘Perfume’ – A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent and I also had the opportunity to create my own, personal scent with the Experimental Perfume Club. I was really excited as those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know how inspired I am by scent and the incredible memories and stories it provokes.

Last November I created a scent installation for the Artists Open Houses in Brighton which you can read about here in my post about ‘The Scented Shed’  and there are also links to some of my other scent related blog posts at the end of this one. The exhibition is about the journey of contemporary, niche perfumery; perfume as works of art creating a whole experience rather than just a fashion accessory.

There are 10 perfumes exhibited, in simple, atmospheric installations where you can soak up the scent and allow your memories and imagination to mingle with the perfumes. The perfumes are representatives of key moments of the 21st Century shift into using synthetic scent. The perfumes are exhibited unlabelled so as not to hinder your sensory journey. But before you explore the exhibits there is a table of perfume history…L’Origan by Coty, 1905,  ( below ) was the first floral oriental perfume and was pioneering for its use of synthetic ingredients in conjunction with natural materials and Chypre by Coty, 1917, ( below ) is regarded as one of the scents that defined modern perfumery… Shocking by Schiaparelli, 1937, ( below )  was arguably the first multi sensory perfume and captured the high glamour mood of the 1930’sPossibly the world’s most famous perfume, Chanel No 5, 1921, ( below ) created for Coco Chanel by Ernest Beaux… Youth Dew by Esteé Lauder, 1953, ( below ) created to be an accessible luxury for the emerging, post war middle classes and marked a transition in global perfumery, shifting its influence from Europe to America…Opium by Yves St Laurent, 1977, ( below )…it is considered one of the most controversial scents of the century, apparently bringing illicit thrills to a decade which embraced more casual conversations around sex…( my mum wore this one in the 1980’s!! ) After exploring the table of scent history we explored the main exhibition and were encouraged to make notes…and maybe create a new sort of descriptive vocabulary… Being a synaesthete I was in my element being able to make visual notes rather than trying to use words…even though I didn’t have time to complete them.

I don’t want to spoil things for you in case you’re able to get along to the exhibition so the following photographs show how the perfumes are displayed and how you interact with them, ie; there are objects in all the images which were infused with the scent. You can spot them by noticing a hole or circular mesh, rather than just telling  you what they are or who the artist was behind them…( although I list the artists and perfumes at the end of the blog post so you can have a stab at guessing. ) 

After the curated tour of the scents we then had the wonderful experience of creating our own personal scent in Le Petit Parfum workshop with Emmanuelle Moeglin from The Experimental Perfume Club; using our instincts to select our favourite olfactory notes and accords…
I discovered that I’m naturally drawn to citrus top notes, spicy heart notes and woody and oriental base notes and I managed to blend a perfume I was really happy with!

…and then to the shop, and of course I had to go home with the complete set of exhibition scented postcards! …and in my dreams Daniela Andrier’s ‘Rain Cloud’ would have been the scent I would have really liked to take home… …instead I satisfied myself with a shot of one of the wonderful staircases at Somerset House as I left the building, but very definitely followed by olfactory ghosts which stayed with me for days.The exhibition runs until 17th September and the 10 perfume ‘provocateurs’ are: Mark Buxton’s ‘Comme des Garçons 2′, Geza Schoen’s ‘Molecule 01’, Antoine Lee’s ‘Sécrétions Magnifiques’, Bertrand Duchaufour’s ‘Catholic Mass’, Daniela Andrier’s ‘Purple Rain’, David Seth Moltz’s ‘El Cosmico’, Lyn Harris’s ‘Charcoal’, Andy Tauer’s L’Air Du Desert Marocain, Killian Wells’s ‘Dark Ride’ and Prada’s ‘Iris’ 

If you wanted to read about some of my perfume and scent projects here are some previous blog posts: Monday…with Pop Ups and Perfume, Saturday…with Scented Reflections and Thursday…with Floris and Scent

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