Profile By is an olfactory art exhibition taking place at Phillips’ Paris location (15-24 June 2021). The collection is a collaboration between six contemporary artists and six perfumers, who have been paired together to create original olfactive sculptures.

The collaborations feature well-known names in both disciples, such as Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos working alongside Burberry, Chloé, and Jo Malone perfumer Anne Flipo; Israeli photographer Ori Gersht and Yves Saint Laurent perfumer Juliette Karagueuzoglou; or Argentine–French artist Pablo Reinoso side-by-side with Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb creator Domitille Bertier. 

Hubert Le Gall with Jean-Christophe Herault, Le coeur de Dionysos, 2021
Hubert Le Gall with Jean-Christophe Herault, Le coeur de Dionysos, 2021

The project is the brainchild of Diane Thalheimer, former Cultural & Artistic VP Director of the brilliant but short-lived Le Grand Musée du Parfum. Open from 2016-2018, the Paris-based perfumery museum was an attempt to show that the art of perfumery is in fact just that – an art. In many ways, Profile By is an attempt to do the same thing. 
 
Thalheimer began the project with an in-depth ‘art and olfactive profiling’ of the participants. That entailed creating a document for each artist containing images of their work alongside analysis of their core values, artistic influences, messages, and identity as conveyed through those pieces.  

Thalheimer and the Director of Creation of IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) then used the document to choose the perfumer that best fit the personality of the artist. Simultaneously, the artists were then given an interview with questions about their childhood memories, intimate smells they love, and personal experiences with certain fragrances. The answers were then shared with perfumers and a fragrance built from there, while each artist created an original sculpture made to diffuse the perfume. 

Daniel Firman with Nicolas Beaulieu, Saisir l’impossible (l’échappé), 2021
Daniel Firman with Nicolas Beaulieu, Saisir l’impossible (l’échappé), 2021

Fragrance and visual art are usually thought of as two distinctly different disciplines and it’s understandable, considering both play to different senses. Yet, the Profile By project shows that the intersection of those two disciplines has great, largely untapped, creative potential.

The visual and the olfactory might be different mediums but they have an unparalleled ability to activate memories, trigger ideas, and imitate conversation. It’s no surprise, then, that making them work together can have a powerful impact. 

Pablo Reinoso and Domitille Michalon Bertier, Rocking Me, 2021

Of course, Profile By is not the first example of visual artists experimenting with fragrance, a topic we’ve covered in the past. Still, it’s always exciting to see a new opportunity for visual art and fragrance to come together. Whether or not it’s successful is a decision that can really only be made by those lucky enough to see and smell the collection in Paris. §