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December 09, 2010

Center of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Art and Design

Have you ever been curious about a perfume museum, which pays tribute to scent, rather than the tangible accoutrement of perfumery, such as ads and bottles? Chandler Burr takes on a new role-- a Curator of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. More information below.

New York (December 9, 2010) — The Museum of Arts and Design announced today that it will launch the Center of Olfactory Art, marking the first time an art museum will dedicate a department to the art of scent. The Center will support exhibition and program development and provide opportunities for audiences to engage directly with prominent artists in the field. The Center will be led by former New York Times scent critic Chandler Burr, who joins the Museum’s staff as its—and the nation’s—first Curator of Olfactory Art. Mr. Burr, whose appointment is effective immediately, is currently organizing the Museum’s fall 2011 exhibition The Art of Scent, 1889-2011.

“Olfactory art is a field that has been overlooked historically. Its position today among art historians, museum curators, and even the general public is essentially equivalent to that of photography thirty years ago—virtually unrecognized as an art form in its own right,” said Holly Hotchner, the Museum’s Nanette L. Laitman Director. “MAD’s mission is to examine contemporary creativity across all media—both traditional and non-traditional—and to deconstruct the hierarchical boundaries that have existed between artistic genres. The Center of Olfactory Art will be the first resource of its kind, focused on broadening audience experience and understanding of the art of scent.”

The Center’s exhibition programming will focus on showcasing the work of major scent artists, such as Jean-Claude Ellena, Ernest Beaux, and Jacques Cavallier, and will explore key trends in olfactory art, including how synthetic molecules have revolutionized the art form and the aesthetic, moral, and ecological issues faced over time in the reformulation of olfactory works. The Center will serve as a public forum for lectures and workshops on issues related to olfactory art and the role of scent in daily life. In the Open Studios at MAD, visitors will have the opportunity to meet scent artists, observe the creation of new fragrances, and discuss aspects of scent as an artistic medium and cultural phenomenon. The Center of Olfactory Art will also launch partnerships with design schools and other academic institutions that include the study of scent, culture, and design.

“I am honored to be joining MAD’s interdisciplinary curatorial team and to be leading the museum’s new Center of Olfactory Art,” said Chandler Burr. “Olfactory art speaks to the sense of smell just as visual art speaks to the sense of sight, and visitors will experience works at the Museum by smelling them. The Center will present a range of interactive programs that will explore the groundbreaking innovations of scent artists today and the artistry and craftsmanship inherent in the creation of olfactory art.”

As MAD’s first Curator of Olfactory Art, Burr will work with the Museum’s senior curatorial staff to develop exhibitions and programs that illuminate scent as an art form. The first exhibition planned, The Art of Scent, 1889-2011, will allow visitors to experience ten seminal works by some of the greatest scent artists of the late-19th, 20th and early-21st centuries. Burr will curate a series of lectures open to the public in the MAD Theater that will bring together scent artists with major creative figures in the scent industry. He will organize talks with perfumers who will lead interactive lectures, in which participants will learn about various raw materials that constitute fragrances, such as Ugandan vanilla, Peruvian pink peppercorn, Laotian benzoin, and Rwandan geranium, and will curate a series of lectures and workshops that bring the work of distinguished scent artists to life in MAD’s Open Studio and artist-in-residence programs.


Chandler Burr is a scent critic, writer, and lecturer. From 2006 to 2010, Burr served as The New York Times’ first Perfume Critic, writing the “Scent Notes” column as well as contributing articles on the perfume industry to the Times Business Day section. He has authored two books on perfume: "The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris & New York" (2009), which began as an article for The New Yorker magazine, and "The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses" (2003), which explores a maverick biophysicist’s theory of how the human sense of smell functions. Burr holds a Masters in International Economics and Japan Studies from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and studied international relations at l'Institut d'études politiques in Paris and Chinese history at Central Institute of Foreign Nationalities in Beijing.


The Museum of Arts and Design explores how craftsmanship, art, and design intersect in the visual arts today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting edge technologies.

The Museum’s exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by creative and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1950 to the present day.

At the center of the Museum’s mission is education. The Museum’s dynamic new facility features classrooms and studios for master classes, seminars, and workshops for students, families and adults. Three open artist studios engage visitors in the creative processes of artists at work and enhance the exhibition programs. Lectures, films, performances and symposia related to the Museum’s collection and topical subjects affecting the world of contemporary art, craft and design are held in a renovated 144-seat auditorium.

From press release



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