A giant olfactory map of the world suspended in mid air, photographs of farmers harvesting perfume ingredients in the field, and flood-lit flasks of the finest raw ingredients were all expertly arranged by the architect Alessandro Moradei to make for the most impressive exhibit of the show.
Visitors were left to explore the bottles for themselves: exquisite, rooty Orris Absolute from Italy, (which sells at 100,000 Euros per kilo), Tonka Bean Abs from Brazil, Ginger oil from Ivory Coast, Patchouli Oil from Indonesia, Vanilla Bean from Madagascar...
The raw materials were provided by IFF (International Flavours and Fragrances), who have a natural raw ingredients base in Grasse in the South of France called LMR (Laboratoire Monique Rémy)
Chandler Burr, who is the curator of olfactory art at NYC's Museum of Art and Design, said he got the idea for the show about 5 years ago: “I was speaking at a conference in Montreal and I was approached by group of Indonesian men who worked with, organised and defended the interests of the farmers in Java and Sumatra who grow most of the world’s patchouli.
And they told me something startling. Most of these farmers had no idea what their crop, to which they devote their lives, and which they feed their children and house their families, is used for. When the farmers were told that the patchouli was turned into perfumes, they were surprised.
I was surprised as well: I had always thought of perfumes in artistic terms, aesthetic terms, of its materials, design, structure. I had never thought of it in terms of its human geography, nor of the people whose lives perfume is made of. The perfumes we wear are things that come from our planet, an immense, miraculous factory of extraordinary scents, and are filled with the lives of human beings. Every bottle of perfume contains a world.”