Thanks for the link.
You can find it at this link, or just search for "Fragrance Museum" on the newspaper's website:
Seems like some valid criticism of the show, though I haven't seen it personally, so I can't really say if I agree. Overall, though, a noble effort by Mr. Burr. Congratulations to all involved with it. I'd love to see it/smell it next time I'm in New York.
Thanks for the link.
It amazes me how Mr Burr wrote a book about Luca Turin and then he suddenly became a perfume expert.
Btw, Roja Dove did a perfume exhibition a while back, a couple of youtube vids about it.
Fine fragrance is alive; it breathes, unfolds and unravels with each passing hour....
Thanks for the link.
Chandler Burr is a charlatan. An excellent journalist, but a charlatan. 90% of the regular users on this board put him to shame with their passion and knowledge of perfume. Due to his lack of understanding, he is obfuscating olfactory art, as the author of this article implies. I applaud the fact that a conversation about these things has started, but Burr is merely clouding things with his pseudoartistic claptrap. The sooner people realize he knows nothing, covering his ignorance with terms lifted from the world of art, the better off the world will be.
mrcologneguy, <<Seems like some valid criticism of the show>> I think the review is problematic in many ways, but it does raise legitimate questions. Can you tell us what specifically you find the writer's valid criticism's? I'm interested, obviously, and one learns much more from the (intelligent) criticisms than from the praise.
My, my, the WSJ objecting to commercial art. Seems a rather hollow criticism, one that ignores centuries of the happy romance of the commercial and the artistic.
In terms of valid negative criticism, I can only imagine that many Basenoters would agree that the reported 12 smelling stations seems like a diminutive amount, in the context of the writer's observation that strolling though the fragrance department at Saks would be more educational. Well, perhaps yes for fragrance aficionados. But that criticism misses the point of what the curators were trying to achieve with this exhibition. Winnowing down the entire realm of fragrance appreciation to only 12 examples is a pretty bold move. Haven't seen the show personally, but I'm guessing that part of the fun is trying to guess how the curators pull that off. You have to give them credit for that, at a minimum.
The review does not argue against commercialism in art, but instead raises the issue of whether or not perfume can be considered art. We don't make art with money in mind, because if we do, it loses credibility. The money then controls the creation and reception of the work. The exhibition tried too hard to prove that perfume is like painting or sculpture, but didn't do enough to show the actual artistic work that goes into fragrances.
Read my blog: MadPerfumista.com
One of the real tests of writers, especially poets, is how well they write about smells. If they can't describe the scent of sanctity in a church, can you trust them to describe the suburbs of the heart? -Diane Ackerman
Interesting thread and want to follow it, but I have to comment to subscribe to the thread since the site doesnt work.
I agree with Brian Chambers above ^^^.
I actually just went and saw the exhibit last weekend. The gesture itself was hopefully more significant than the execution; it is all about audience, and this exhibit was clearly not aimed at people already familiar with perfume. Even your average basenoter will find it reductive and will probably feel that it is a massive letdown. And yet there were good things in it: a (very simple) historical overview of designer perfumery, some interesting tidbits here and there about individual fragrances.
For me the main problem had nothing to do with the "art" / "commercial" distinction (which I also find to be a false one), but rather with the failure of its basic mission: they didn't give the museum-goers even the basic tools to be able to perceive the complextiy of perfumery as art (what is a note? what is an essence? how does a perfume evolve ? What are top notes, middle notes, base notes? how do you train your nose? what are they "families" of a perfume (leather, chypre, oriental, etc.). So it was really, extremely simplistic, and unfortunately missed the mark in its intended goals.
Not to mention they had mixed Prada Amber with Angel in one of their sampling dishes, leading to a monstrous hybrid... argh!
In France at fairs they sometimes have these fragrance workshops (I went to one last year at the old abbey of Chaalis) where they lay out the essences of popular notes and then everyone gets to mix their own "perfume"--now that is an experience that would be worth having, and might attune people to the art of perfumery.
I wish I could experience it and offer first hand thoughts but from what I have seen and heard I think Brian and gtsb are pretty well voicing my opinion. It's start, and the idea that industry bodies sponsoring it is somehow 'off' is churlish - hell, Van Gogh had an agent and da Vinci and J.S. and Ludwig had patrons - does that somehow lessen their artistic merit?
For anyone interested here is a brief overview of a similarly intentioned exhibit / workshop that really did 'take perfume to the people' - it was in a mall - sponsored by Guerlain & The French Consulate. It was comprehensive, educational, entertaining and well curated, as well as being hosted by experts. I dropped by a few times and did the one hour Workshop, and it was great to see so many casual passers by look in and STAY as their faces lit up, as they were guided thru notes and the backdrop to perfumery by professionals with a passion for what they do. It had a well written 'programme' for free and another more detailed one for purchase (or maybe for people who took the free one hour course but had registered beforehand).
Sounds like it was an exhibition for "newbies" with some linguistic gymnastics thrown in to make it seem worthy of the "high art" designation. One would be better off buying a book on the history of perfumery and going to local stores that have some testers, it seems. But some people like to do this sort of thing thinking that they've experienced something special, so we can let them have their harmless fun, right?
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Last edited by Beranium Chotato; 12th February 2013 at 06:12 PM.
gtsb wrote <<For me the main problem [was] the failure of its basic mission: they didn't give the museum-goers even the basic tools to be able to perceive the complextiy of perfumery as art (what is a note? what is an essence? how does a perfume evolve ? What are top notes, middle notes, base notes? ... what are they "families" of a perfume (leather, chypre, oriental, etc.)>> which illustrates perfectly the writer's unfamiliarity with the mission of the Department of Olfactory Art.
The Dept's mission is to place scent firmly within traditional art history along with painting, sculpture, music, literature, film, and the other major mediums. It is to apply the highly-developed language of art history with its vocabulary of aesthetics to works of olfactory art just as this vocabulary is applied to, say, architecture because it permits us to talk about and debate architecture with each other: Gothic, Contemporary, Modernist, International Style, and so on. If you disagree philosophically or intellectually with this mission, or believe art historical concepts useless, then the discussion is over. The Dept's exhibitions are, by design, not for you.
If you believe that art history has value and that its language can help us talk about, evaluate, and debate works in scent, a major artistic medium, the Dept's exhibitions are explicitly for you.
Which is why gtsb failed to understand the exhibition's basic mission; his or her comments are critiquing a show that does not exist, or at least it does not exist at the Museum or Arts and Design. The exhibition's unspoken premise is the unspoken premise of more or less every exhibition of finished works of art anywhere: It is no more necessary to know how an essence is made to discuss the beauty of the work "Rose Barbare" than it is to understand the mechanics Alexander Calder used to put together his mobiles in order to discuss the beauty and aesthetic impact of Calder's mobiles; the DOA at MAD is not for the study of building works of olfactory art any more than the Whitney is for studying the building of sculpture. Calder, Kurkdjian, Gehry, and Reich have no more interest than I do in the public's familiarity with the mechanics of their raw materials and construction techniques. Calder, Kurkdjian, Gehry, and Reich, like all artists, are, rather, interested in one thing: The aesthetic impact of their complete, final works of art, in this case works of sculpture, scent, architecture, and music. And the Whitney and the Museum of Arts and Design are places to experience these works of art, not to engage in reducing them to their components. If you actually want to study Calder's technique, that's fine, but you are not studying the works of art. You are studying how they are built, which can be quite interesting, but Calder was as uninterested as every other artist in the public's focusing on his wiring. He didn't make wiring. He used wiring and thereby made works of art.
Artists, including olfactory artists, create complete works to be experienced as complete works. There are many good technical courses in acrylics vs oils vs watercolors, canvas stretching and paint primers, the various advantages of different brushes and brush fibers, and so on. The Dept of Olfactory Art's remit, however, is to exhibit the finished works and to talk about them as we talk about works of photography. One goes to a museum to experience the impact of the work.
The mission of this specific exhibition, The Art of Scent, is to propose the idea that works of scent are works of art. It is basic. At the same time this basic proposition is surprising, indeed provocative, to the vast majority of the public interested in art. It is to be built upon. We'll see in a decade whether the Dept has been successful.