Thank you for the link.
I think it's a nice exhibition concept. I am unsure if I want to call perfumery art but the attempt to get a grip of these immaterial exhibits and to communicate their purpose (or nature) by use of art historical terms is legitimate. And interesting. In my opinion not labored at all.
I have to disagree with you treeman. You seem somewhat anti Chandler Burr; your opening post contained some unnecessary remarks about him, and I feel that you would be critical of anything that he did. I read the article and thought the exhibition sounded wonderful. Using recognised terms of art history (Modernism, Brutalism etc.) to describe a fragrance seems to be, in this context, entirely acceptable.
Whether Perfumery may be considered an art, is an entirely different subject. Chandler thinks it is, and his exhibition reflects his ides, and from the article, does so admirably.
Being perfume evanescent and being very poor- for cultural and historical reasons- the human ability to express olfactory sensations with a specific language, I think that metaphors and analogies referring to other, better explored senses, are inevitable.
CB draws them from visual art, one could also think to use musical analogies- both are areas where a long history of criticism has developed a - more or less- widely shared specific language.
The problem, IMO, is the subjectivity of these analogies- being perfumery a rather virgin territory, a shared code doesn't exist, yet, and almost everybody is entitled to affirm whatever they like.
It's a while since I delved in The Guide, but I seem to remember a few musical analogies there / and they didnīt seem out of place.
I think, ultimately, the perfume critic is faced with describing the experience of the perfume the best way they can. Sure one can do that by going through its progression, talking of how well the composition is balanced or not, how the notes are realized. That's informative but a bit pedestrian. A good review aims for something more, and in striving for that, the colour of analogies, wit, and sympathetic (but extraneous) concepts can illuminate the writing. Of course one can also overbalance into pointless language for language's sake.