Art Scents: Perfume, Design and Olfactory Art

An excellent must-read academic piece by Larry Shiner on the confusing but ever-relevant subject of perfumes are art. (For our brief take on the matter, see The Art of Scent & The Scent of Art.)

Claims that perfumes are art have been made before, but a recent art museum exhibit of a dozen perfumes under the title ‘The Art of Scent’ has raised the issue with a new insistence, although with an absence of theoretical justification. Part 1 of the paper develops an aesthetic case for perfume as an art form by answering Beardsley’s and Scruton’s arguments against odours (and implicitly perfumes) as the basis for aesthetic objects and works of art. Part 1 concludes that perfumes can in fact manifest the required structure, temporality, symbolism and expressivity for art status. Part 2, on the other hand, develops a contextualist case against perfumes as works of fine art by analyzing a typical contemporary art practice involving a perfume and arguing that, by contrast, typical perfumery practices lack crucial elements required to make perfume an art form and that perfume should be considered one of the design arts. Part 3, instead of trying to reconcile the impasse between the conclusions of Parts 1 and 2 with a theory of the fine arts that combines aesthetic and contextual elements, instead chooses to follow Dominic Lopes’ proposal that in resolving claims to art status we pursue analogies and ‘paths’ offered by the established individual arts. Using music as an example of a long established art form and the art quilt as an example of a recently established art, I suggest what it might take for ‘art perfumes’, or more accurately, ‘art scents’, to emerge and become justifiably included among the fine arts.

Art Scents: Perfume, Design and Olfactory Art

Futuristic Fragrance Collection Highlights Scents Endangered by Climate Change – PSFK

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the morning has to be one of the best scents ever but, along with many natural fragrances, it could soon vanish due to climate change. The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store (T.E.M.P.S., French for time) bottles the scents that are set to disappear because of the environmental crisis:

Climate Change Couture: Smell Masks


To reduce their anxiety and make them more alert to the impending disaster, the rescue team distributes Smell Masks, which filter the oxygen around them while giving them scented air to breathe. The oxygen is scented with lemon, lavender, or peppermint, depending on the victim’s needs.

The work is part of Catherine Sarah Young’s Climate Change Couture project. Read more at:

If You Love That Font So Much, Why Don’t You Date It? | WIRED

Graphic designer Sarah Hyndman believes typography says more than most people think it does. She thinks the shape of a letter can impact the way stuff tastes, smells, and sounds. To her, typefaces are multi-sensory experiences that affect the way we interact with the world around us.

“Olfactory: Smell in Art” & “Smell as a Criterion: Toward an Olfactory Politics in Curating”


On October 23, the 10th Mercosul Biennial opened in Porto Alegre, Brazil with a major exhibition on smell titled Olfactory: Smell in Art. With 54 artists from Latin America, it’s the first large-scale Latin American exhibition on the topic. The exhibition is on view until December 6th and is curated by Gaudêncio Fidelis.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Biennial is also releasing a book titled Smell as a Criterion: Towards a Politics of Olfactory Curating. Published in Portuguese and English, it is the first book of the genre that covers olfaction as a curatorial strategy.
You can find below more information and images.


Smell as a Criterion: Toward an Olfactory Politics in Curating is the first book of the genre that covers olfaction as a curatorial strategy. It is an in-depth, thought-provoking delve in the intricacies of an olfactory curating, proposed by the author as an alternative approach through other senses, opposed to the hegemony of sight in the construction of the Western canon. One of the most dedicated curators and art historians to the approach of canonical structures and their pervasive presence in art exhibitions, Gaudêncio Fidelis proposes an alternative reflection on the establishment of new curatorial models that are not based exclusively on sight, with its exclusionary and discriminatory perspective.

Click here for the full press release.


Olfactory: Smell in Art
This exhibition introduces aspects of modern and contemporary production in Latin America which challenge the established prerogatives of canonicity, specially those built around the Western Canon, by privileging anti-ocular manifestations through the developments of a number of issues related to olfaction. This exhibition analyzes classificatory hierarchies of smell in the universe of art as a possibility for new interpretative strategies.

Click here for the full press release.


An Osmobox is a work of olfactory art that responds to the presence of the viewer by opening itself and gently releasing an aroma. All Osmoboxes are visually identical but completely distinct in their olfactory identity. This means that the viewer is unable to differentiate them through vision alone and is, therefore, stimulated to explore each artwork primarily through the sense of smell.

The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume

What if 100 contemporary American poets were sent individually selected vials of perfume, fragrances chosen to reflect the authors’ voices, aesthetics, or writerly obsessions? What if each poet wrote something new in response? THE BOOK OF SCENTED THINGS collects the results of this strange, aromatic experiment: poems of longing and of childhood memory, poems of place and philosophy and politics, poems about the challenge of writing poems about perfume. This is an anthology whose words will linger on your pulse points long after even the base notes have faded.

OSMODRAMA : Storytelling with Scents – The Festival 2016 by Wolfgang Georgsdorf @ Kickstarter

Introducing a new art: composing+performing time-based smell sequences via SMELLER 2.0, the instrument. This festival starts in Berlin.


Where to Find Out What’s Inside Anything | WIRED

YOU’RE SURROUNDED BY molecules. Small molecules—your ethanols, your methanes, your H2Os. But also big ones—the polymers, long chains of carbons and nitrogens and oxygens all strung together in impossibly complex combinations and orientations. If you’re a chemist, you see those molecules in everything, whether or not you actually see them: in the smell of pine trees and the feel of conditioner on your hair and the whiff of leather in a new car.

If you’re a non-chemist, you can still see those molecules. But not in some Beautiful Mind-like overlay of the world’s atoms and bonds—more like in difficult-to-pronounce, multisyllabic words on nutrition facts labels and ingredients lists that may or may not give you PTSD from that one semester of organic chemistry. If you’ve ever wondered just what the hell stearoxytrimethylsilane is and what exactly it’s doing in your face wash, these sources are here to help.