Smelling Your Way Through A Museum


Jimmy Stamp visits the first “major museum exhibition to recognize and celebrate scent as a true artistic medium rather than just a consumer product”:

While walking through the Museum of Art and Design’s exhibition “The Art of the Scent (1889-2012)” my mind was flooded with memories of a nearly forgotten childhood friend, an ex-girlfriend and my deceased grandmother. It was a surprisingly powerful and complex experience, particularly because it was evoked in a nearly empty gallery by an invisible art form—scent.

He marvels at the exhibit’s design:

The architects lined three walls of the nearly empty gallery space with a row of gently sloping, almost organic “dimples.” Each identical dimple is just large enough to accommodate a single visitor, who upon leaning his or her head into the recessed space is met with an automatic burst of fragrance released by a hidden diffusion machine. I was told the burst doesn’t represent the scents’ “top notes” as one might expect, but more closely resembles the lingering trail of each commercial fragrance—as if a woman had recently walked through the room wearing the perfume. The scent hovers in the air for a few seconds then disappears completely.

(Image from The Art of the Scent exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, by Brad Farwell, courtesy of the Museum.)