Fumes in the News: 8 Chairs -- a Perfumed Art Installation

Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about perfume, but he might as well have been. A compelling smell is nothing if not mysterious: a chance encounter with a scent commandeers our head and heart, frogmarching us into unforeseen territories.

Perfume designer Azzi Glasser has orchestrated her own brand of mystery with her Agent Provocateur creations Signature and L'Agent, as well as in fragrance collaborations with pop singers, fashion designers, and movie stars.

Her non-commercial work further explores olfactory wonder: last year's Rain on Earth was an indoor monsoon rendered entirely in scent for James Lavelle's Daydreaming exhibition in Hong Kong.

And in 8 Chairs, a new exhibit by Clarke & Reilly at London's Gallery Libby Sellers, Glasser explores the perfume possibilities of eight extremely weather-beaten chairs.

The octet of antique chairs were submitted to extreme weather conditions by artists Clarke & Reilly. Months in scorching Joshua Tree, and weeks on the roof of a Peckham building during London's miserable winter resulted in major dilapidation and, as you can imagine, enhanced odor. Glasser interpreted the smell in a perfume oil, also called 8 Chairs, which wafted from the wooden floors of the gallery space.

As the opening night crowd mingled and conflabbed, I smelled mahogany and mustiness in the air -- and a distinct “bumminess', as Glasser herself put it. In the bigger, more ventilated room, the scent took the shape of a heritage masculine cologne given a contemporary cast. But in a smaller, enclosed space where viewers crowded to watch a slide show, the smell opened up into earthiness and humidity, as well as the aforementioned bumminess.

A possible "8 Chairs" accord.

Apparently Glasser's “research” involved a lot of snorting these smeggy old chair seats after they returned from their world tour. She may have suffered for her art, but we don't. 8 Chairs perfume oil (in a limited edition of 100 bottles) is comfortingly woody and worn-in, and has the power to lend even the most sterile environment a disconcertingly human aura.

14 March -- 27 April 2013
Gallery Libby Sellers , London

"Peter Reed" by Robert Mapplethorpe


  1. Some niche company somewhere needs to develop a couple of new fragrances named "Smeg" and "Bum". Humiecki & Graef perhaps? They might not fit in with the aesthetic, but the names would fit right into their lineup. Askew, Bosque, Geste, Blask, Smeg and Bum.

    1. Good consulting idea for H&G, m61, but I fear Smeg and Bum may have already appeared in the Ikea lineup somewhere. Perhaps as a dish drainer and a clip-mounted waterproof shower lamp?

    2. That lineup sounds like a it could be Dickensian law firm, too. BTW - chuckled at the Scissor Sisters hiney pic. When my daughter charges her ipod on my laptop that pic comes up front and center in my ITunes, which is kind of uncomfortable to explain. Yeah.

    3. Well, you can always say you're a connoisseur of great art photography, since it's a Mapplethorpe. And at least the Scissor Sisters chose a clothed hiney, cuz Mapplethorpe usually went for XXX nude!

  2. Dear Katie

    I'm sure Mr Mapplethorpe would approve of the smell of "bumminess" - indeed it may not have been that unfamiliar to him!

    I really must get along to this show and will be sure to share my thoughts.

    Yours ever

    The Perfumed Dandy

    1. Dear P Dandy,

      "Robert sure 'nose' his way around a well-muscled buttock," as I'm sure one of his contemporaries might once have said back in the day.

  3. Hey Katie! I LOVE your videos and blog. :-) But, I really REALLY would like your review of L'Heure Bleue. I recently got a bottle of the EDP and it is just a (lovely) emotional roller-coaster every time I wear it. It's just phenomenal! I don't think I've had such an experience with a perfume like this before... (how corny lol) I would really love to hear what you think about it!