Chandler Burr intends to do for perfume what has been done for photography over the last 30 years: confirm its status as a legitimate art. For this purpose he has set up and become Director and Curator of the Center of Olfactory Art at the Museum of
Chandler Burr intends to do for perfume what has been done for photography over the last 30 years: confirm its status as a legitimate art. For this purpose he has set up and become Director and Curator of the Center of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. “The interesting thing about perfumes is that whereas you’ve seen all of the colours you’re ever going to see, you’ve heard all of the musical tones you’re ever going to hear, (you’ve heard them differently, whether it’s Beethoven or Radiohead, but it’s the same tones)” he explains, “with perfume, you can actually have new smells.” The art of fragrance allows for original creation in the truest sense of the words.
Burr’s intellectual curiosity has taken him from Chinese history, via epidemiology, and novel writing to the science of smell and most recently to gastronomy. Over the past six years he has been working with international culinary masters to compose scent dinners, mixing two fledgling art forms to the creative benefit of both.
"The interesting thing about perfumes is that whereas you’ve seen all of the colours you’re ever going to see; you’ve heard all of the musical tones you’re ever going to hear. With perfume, you can actually have new smells"
Last week, AnOther was invited to join him at a tasting session for one of these dinners with chef Massimo Riccioli of Massimo’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar at the Corinthia Hotel in London. We were celebrating the 40th anniversary of Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir, a perfume originally created by nose Bernard Chant, and re-formulated as a limited edition by IFF perfumer Laurent Le Guernec. An HD TV tribute to traditional broadcasting – Burr light-heartedly pinpointed the relationship between these two. “It’s a new romanticist perfume,” he adds. “It smells crepuscular – a high Romantic perfume.”
Having selected 27 raw materials from hundreds in Elixir, we were witnessing Massimo’s “fantasy cooking”, as he translated these raw materials into edible ingredients that would make up a sensuous feast. Along the way we would smell Jasmine Egypt, which had a whiff of armpit to it; Eugenol, the smell of which is reminiscent of a dentist’s office; a metallic rose in Rose oxide; and Myrrh. “The three wise men brought it for Jesus,” Burr reminds us, underlining the historic weight behind fragrance that is yet another warrant for his mission to represent scent as design and scent as art. “Isn’t that interesting, they gave him gold – money – and perfume.”
Read more about Chandler Burr in the current issue of AnOther Magazine. The Museum of Art & Design's The Art of Scent: 1889-2011 opens June 2012.
Guest post by Agata Belcen