IFF SCENTS ROBERT WILSON’S MAGICAL GARDEN

Byline: Melissa Drier

HANOVER, Germany — Even in today’s world of short-lived perfumes, creating a fragrance for one night — or nine, at the very most — is bound to set noses aquiver. And that’s precisely what International Flavors & Fragrances did in Hanover with nine special scents created exclusively for Robert Wilson’s most recent new production, or rather installation, called the Magical Garden.
The Magical Garden was on view at the Orangerie in the Royal Herrenhausen Gardens here from May 29 to June 7. It was commissioned by the German carpet producer Vorwerk to both celebrate and present its new Flower Edition range of carpets designed by nine contemporary artists, including Wilson, Jeff Koons, Rosemarie Trockel, Paul Wunderlich and Philip Taaffe.
Wilson created a tableau vivant in a huge enchanted garden populated by 40 actors in various magical or fairy-tale poses. For example, there was a sleeping beauty in a glass box and a doll watching a TV imbedded in a tree. Haunting melodies were playing, and for the first time, in a Wilson piece, fragrance was wafting through the air.
The Orangerie was filled with oversized plants, flowers and trees and pieces of the 23 Flower Edition carpets in assorted colorways.
Rolf Schaal, Vorwerk’s chairman of executive management, just smiled when asked about the cost of this project — and the opening party for over 400 guests, including German chancellor candidate Gerhard Schroder.
As for IFF’s involvement, eight months of gratis product development involving perfumers in New York and Paris constituted a generous new form of artistic sponsorship. However, as Nicolas Mirzayantz, vice president at IFF in the U.S. and Magical Garden project director, remarked, “A Magical Garden is the best assignment a perfumer could get. And it was a great opportunity to develop creative scents.”
The actors wore the scents and sprayed them in the air. Also, the night of the opening, Mirzayantz roamed through the 8,600-square-foot exhibit opening night dabbing fragrance here and there.
Like Wilson’s theatrical settings, the smells ranged from woodsy to watery and were purposely abstract, evoking concepts like cold or mimicking the smell of sand and twigs.
The most challenging aspect, he said, was “to stay subtle.
“We didn’t want anything to overpower. It was a question of smelling before you see, seeing before you smell…a sensual discovery, with the fragrances providing an additional element of surprise. We didn’t want one sense to dominate.”
Mirzayantz said he and his perfumers had complete olfactory carte blanche, with Wilson sending plans of the setup, color schemes and music for them to react to or design for. Although Mirzayantz didn’t see any direct commercial applications for the Magic Garden scents, “you always learn by having fun and complete freedom of expression,” he noted.
“The perfumers loved it. They were allowed to mix ingredients in different proportions. One ingredient could be 80 percent versus the normal 0.2 percent, and as we all know, many of the major perfume successes were just an accident or the result of someone daring to push an ingredient to a new limit.”

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