Nose to nose: an exhibition on perfume arranged by studio Glithero

London-based studio Glithero conceived a sensorial scenography for “Nez à Nez”, the exhibition at mudac in Lausanne dedicated to the world of contemporary perfumers.   

Too often, design museums offer scenographic experiences based exclusively on the visual aspect of the pieces, turning visitors into inert observers. With “Nez à Nez” – litteraly “nose to nose”, the French equivalent to the expression “face to face” – the mudac of Lausanne tried to go beyond this passivity of the senses, proposing an exhibition that also stimulates smell and touch. On show until the 16th of June 2019, the exposition explores the world of contemporary perfumers through an interactive setting designed by the British studio Glithero.

Showcasing invisible, ephemeral and intangible exhibits such as perfumes is not an easy task. “We wanted the scenography to act as a link between the fragrances and the visitors”, explains Claire Favre Maxwell – the deputy director of the museum – who curated Nez à Nez with Claire Bannwart. “It had to be convincing and interactive – in the sense that you need to make certain gestures to access the perfumes – but not too interpretative, so that visitors were left free to perceive the fragrances in their own way”, continues the curator.

Preparatory drawing by studio Glithero. Courtesy mudac
Preparatory drawing by studio Glithero. Courtesy mudac

Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren – the founders of studio Glithero – answered mudac’s brief by conceiving a series of poetic site-specific installations that play with light and air. Among the various analogue devices are: tiny glass phials that slowly release their fragrances when the strings of the floating balloons attached to their stoppers are pulled; giant paper fans that diffuse perfumes when opened; elegant glass bells realised by Valérie de Roquemaurel, a glass blower based near Lausanne.

“The mudac has a collection of glass objects and as glass is one of the best materials to contain and preserve perfumes it was clear that there had to be such elements in the exhibition”, underlines Favre Maxwell. The installations presented various challenges both technically and conceptually-wise: in fact, they needed to be both easy to use and resistant enough to allow repeated manipulation, but also take into consideration the fact that perfumes are highly volatile substances. “Of course when you enter the museum it smells a bit of perfume, but frankly Glithero have thought it out well, and it is very bearable. Each perfume is recognisable individually, which is great!”, affirms the curator.

“Nez à Nez”, exhibition view. Courtesy mudac
“Nez à Nez”, exhibition view. Courtesy mudac

The exhibition, which aims at demonstrating that perfumes too are carefully designed products – just think about their reproducibility and packaging – features the work of thirteen perfumers among whom are Céline Ellena, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Olivia Giacobetti. Each installation – which is dedicated to two to three perfumers – is the occasion to cast light on different aspects of this profession: from composition and style to technique. “With Nez à Nez we wanted to show how perfumers work. What are their inspirations and training? Which are their references and the stories they want to tell the public?”, explains the curator. “It was therefore important for us to select professionals who work in different conditions. To do so we teamed up with French magazine Nez, with which we also developed the catalogue and the exhibition’s visual identity”, concludes Favre Maxwell.

“Nez à Nez”, exhibition view. Courtesy mudac
“Nez à Nez”, exhibition view. Courtesy mudac

The result of various positive and meaningful collaborations, the exhibition was also the occasion for the curatorial team to work again with the Musée de la Main UNIL-CHUV, a transdisciplinary museum in Lausanne which focuses on merging art and science. Developed as the scientific pendant of “Nez à Nez”, the exhibition “Quel flair!” – on show until February 23th, 2020 – introduces visitors to the effect of smells on emotions.

Exhibition title:
Nez à Nez. Contemporary perfumers
Opening dates:
until 16 June 2019
Curated by:
Amélie Bannwart, Claire Favre Maxwell
Place de la Cathédrale 6, 1005 Lausanne, Switzerland

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