This summer, Somerset House’s East Wing Galleries has transformed into a series of scent-based installations showcasing the inspirations and skill of modern perfumery. During 21 June to 17 September 2017, the exhibition Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent explores contemporary’s scent scene through the work of ten perfume pioneers from the past two decades.
The exhibition begins with an overview of 20th-century perfumery. Mirroring the ten 21st-century perfumes highlighted at the heart of the exhibition, including ten trailblazing scents of the time – one for each decade of the 20th century. It starts with L’Origan de Coty (1905) – a hallmark perfume, now out of circulation. It ends with CK one (1994), the original gender-neutral fragrance of western perfume culture that led the ‘clean’ scent trend.
The exhibition puts scent in the spotlight, inviting visitors to provide a personal response and contribute their individual interpretations to each of the exhibited fragrances. A ‘notes-book’ will be presented to audiences on arrival to record their impressions.
Instead of the traditional text panels to guide the visitor on their olfactory journey, each room will include visual, auditory and tactile references to the identity and influences of the perfumer. Installations will reflect the inspirations of the scents in their design, from a sandy desert to the Scottish Highlands, a Catholic confessional to a lover’s boudoir. Only after experiencing each installation will the full story of the scent be revealed, so audiences can bring together their personal interpretation with the intention of the perfumer.
‘Smell is a way of understanding that nothing is lost’, says by perfumer Daniela Andrier. This exhibition discovers a vibrant new perfume scene, the contemporary cult perfumes shaking up scent culture and the unseen works of art worn on our skin. Contemporary perfume provocateurs are dispensing with traditional high gloss communication concepts, gender boundaries and conventional notions of good taste.