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Smell can be an overlooked sense, but is an important and pleasurable one, adding another arena for experimentation and art to the human experience. The new exhibition at Somerset House, “Perfume, a sensory journey through contemporary scent”, is a vibrant immersion into the world of scent making, and an education on the rapidly evolving industry.
People no longer simply want an alluring or attractive smell, they want unique and interesting scents that can transport you to a new place or time and tell a story. These seem to be contemporary demands from consumers paralleled across all luxury and giftable items. People often want more than just a beautiful object to view, taste, smell or feel– they want an experience, often combining all of these factors. With this in mind, Senior Curator at Somerset House Claire Catterall sets us up for a multi-sensory experience, as you smell each scent from different objects, materials and settings relevant to their inspiration. In this way she is telling parts of the story behind the scents through visual and tactile means, subtle precursors that lead you into the main showcase. You inhale Mark Buxton’s Comme des Garçons 2 through small black spheres that are dotted about a sea of shiny black grains. This alludes to the scent of a swimming pool of ink he was striving to create.  At Minerva we use the same considerations in our creative process; the colours, the textures, the weight in your hand are all elements we use to set the scene and communicate the truth of the product before it can be enjoyed. Smell being so strongly linked to memory, can also be a powerful tool to weave another layer of storytelling into design, the smell of wood on a case of whisky for example. It may be the sense people think they could most easily live without, but it is the most complex one, that enhances life and brings endless enjoyment.


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