This is Cartier’s second artistic project to be called an OSNI, the acronym of the French words for Unidentified Scented Objects. Both were created by Mathilde Laurent, the house’s perfumer, who wishes to reveal perfume’s artistic dimension and start a conversation with the public about scent.
“The whole purpose of the installation is to show that perfume connects the infinitely big with the infinitely small — or what’s invisible to the human eye,” said Laurent. “This has always been its role, in fact.”
She highlighted fragrance’s spiritual nature, harking back to when people used the scent of incense smoke to convey messages to the gods.
Laurent said another role of the OSNIs is to “give back to perfume a greater nobility,” and to elevate humans with olfactory beauty.
OSNI 2 takes place in the dark in a building standing at 2 Rue Robert Esnault-Pelterie, on the Left Bank. Upon entry, visitors first see a lit drawing by George Barbier, who in 1949 created the mythical Dame à la Panthère — featuring a woman draped in necklaces standing in front of a seated panther — for a Cartier invitation.
As an audio accompaniment, spoken-word artist Rhael “LionHeart” Cape reads a poem he penned, which opens: “At the altar of our (airborn) senses, delicately poised, an ethereal panther of sacred particles made prayer, reveals itself (amid) thin air, this sensuous scent….”
People then walk to the room next door, where there’s a curtain of water droplets scented with La Panthère perfume, running along a wall. A hologram image of a panther appears on the illuminated drops. It prowls across the space, only to disappear again in a burst of lights.
Visitors hear sounds that were composed around the golden ratio frequency, considered to be conducive to meditation. They are invited to touch the falling water, which leaves a scent on their hands.
OSNI 2 runs through Dec. 11. It’s possible to sign up for tickets to it, free of charge, on osni.cartier.com. And like the first immersive art piece, this instillation is expected to travel internationally.
The first OSNI — which was called “Le Nuage Parfumé,” or “Perfumed Cloud” — opened in 2017. It was composed of a scented cloud suspended in the middle of a large see-through glass cubical structure standing at the base of the Palais de Tokyo museum and the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris.