A Scent of Now
Explore the most progressive contemporary perfumes and create your own at Somerset House.
Who are the pioneers among today’s perfumers? Which scents do they create? And what makes their work so ground-breaking? To explore these questions, Somerset House in London have created a sensory journey through contemporary scent.
The exhibition starts by giving an overview of 20th-century perfumery from L’Origan de Coty (1905), that is actually out of circulation but has been recreated for the exhibition, to CK One (1994), the original gender-neutral fragrance of Western perfume culture.
The main focus of the exhibition, however, is on today’s scene that is explored through the work of ten perfume pioneers from the past two decades. They have been selected for the creativity and ingenuity that they bring to their work, curators Claire Catterall and Lizzie Ostrom explain. Whether self-taught or classically trained, each perfumer within the exhibition challenges a long-held convention in scent-design – from creation and communication, to gender and good taste.
All the rooms include visual, auditory and tactile references to the identity and influences of the perfumers. The installations reflect the inspirations of the scents in their design, from the Scottish Highlands to a Catholic confessional, a lover’s boudoir to a water theme park.
Among the perfumers are David Seth Molt, who in his work draws on US history and geography; Bertrand Duchaufour, who evoked French Catholic mass in his creation for Comme des Garçons; and Antoine Lie, who aims to recall the height of sexual pleasure in a scent.
Equipped with a ‘notes-book’ received at the entrance, visitors have the possibility to not only explore all fragrances, but to also record their impressions and to contribute their individual interpretations. The show features a perfume laboratory stocked with over 200 ingredients. Visitors can interact with it and get instruction from professionals, seeing up close the skill and science of the perfumer and take part in workshops.