El Cosmico wil be one of the ten perfumes highlighted in the exhibition

OLFACTORY EXPERIENCE: Somerset House plans to put fragrance at the fore with an exhibition aimed at exploring contemporary cult perfumes. “Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent,” is promising a “multisensory” experience that will allow visitors to discover unconventional scents developed over the last 20 years — and the stories of the perfumers behind them.

The focus will be on 10 perfumes, ranging from Antoine Les Sécretions Magnifiques for État Libre D’Orange, to Geza Schoen’s Molecule 01 for Escentric Molecules and Purple Rain by Daniela Andrier for Prada Olfactories. What binds the perfumes is their defiance of convention associated with gender or good taste. The perfumers, most of whom work independently and haven’t had any formal training, have been looking for unusual ingredients to create scents that often shock the senses. Sécrétions Magnifiques evokes the essence of sweat, blood and saliva, among others.

Laziz Hamani

A photo by Laziz Hamani.  Courtesy photo

Other scents chosen by Somerset House’s senior curator Claire Catterall include El Cosmico, created in 2015 by the Brooklyn-based perfumer David Seth Moltz to re-create the sensory experience of the camping ground in the Texan town of Marfa. Charcoal is also part of the selection. A fragrance by Lyn Harris, who founded Perfumer H, evokes memories of smoky fires and rainy landscapes from Harris’ childhood in the British countryside.

Each perfumer in question will be represented in a dedicated gallery space so that visitors can fully immerse themselves in the story of the scent. There will also be open perfume laboratories where professionals will offer insights into the skill and science required to create a scent.

Another theme the show plans to explore is the way modern-day perfumes are moving away from glossy advertising, and engaging consumers via online communities instead. The show will open on June 21 and run until Sept. 17.

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