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A Museum for the Senses in Paris

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday December 28, 2016

“Another way to take up more space is with perfume.” Ever since Andy Warhol penned those words as he created his Smell Museum back in the ‘70s, New York City has been the site of numerous experimental installations of scent as art. Most recently, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum included a smell map of Central Park, featuring the aromas of organic decay, by Norwegian artist and chemist Sissel Tolaas, in it’s 2016 Design Triennial, Beauty

But for total immersion in the culture of scent, a trip to Paris for a visit to the newly opened Grand Musée du Parfum is in order. Housed in the 19th-century mansion whose former tenant was the couturier Christian Lacroix, the museum offers a multi-sensory journey through the history and science of scent and parfumerie, featuring an array of hi-tech graphic, video and sound installations.

Starting in ancient Egypt, where the science of perfume was entwined with burial rites to the marriage of perfume and haute couture in 20th century Paris, a Garden of Scents demonstrates how evocative aromas become our own Proustian madelaines. Whether fire smoke or Coca-Cola is your particular trigger, emotion and memory are stirred by live poufs of scent-on-demand.

But the fun begins in the Seducer’s Gallery, created by DART subscriber Bruno Bressolin [info]. Here, great figures from history who used scent to woo and to dominate, from Cleopatra to Louis XIV to Napoleon, are featured in Bruno’s pop-art-inspired portraits. One of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra pays tribute to Andy Warhol, accompanied by push-button bursts of some of the most risqué aromes in parfumerie to complete the story. “The good thing about a smell memory is that the feeling of being transported stops the instant you stop smelling, so there are no aftereffects,”said Andy. “It’s a neat way to reminisce.”

LeGrand Musée du Parfum de Paris, 73 rue du Faubourg St Honore, Paris Info

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