James Turrell, the American artist known for his immersive light installations and holographs (see the recent group show ‘Light & Space’ at Copenhagen Contemporary), has just debuted his first-ever fragrances at this year’s Paris+ par Art Basel. The launch not only marks the artist’s first foray into perfumery, but also the first time in his five-decade career that he has created work on a small scale.
The two perfumes, Range Rider and Purple Sage, have been created in collaboration with the historic French crystal maker and fragrance house Lalique. It is the result of over four years of close collaboration between the two ‘artists of light’, both masters of manipulating material and space to capture and shapeshift light into breathtaking forms, although traditionally for different purposes and at different scales.
The project began with Turrell designing two perfume bottles that reflect (literally) his enduring fascination with Egyptian pyramids, the stupa shapes found in Asian architecture, and wider monuments of spiritual value that use light as an essential component of their design. He also drew inspiration from Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, a novel widely recognised as defining the Western genre and a touchpoint for Turrell, whose work is deeply linked to the American West.
The resulting crystal, prism-shaped flacons are handmade by Lalique artisans, who mastered the technical feat of creating crystals of a uniform thickness that could ensure the correct density of colour and homogeneity.
As the project developed, Turrell also became involved in the creation of the scents. Range Rider is an homage to Arizona, bringing together the scent of sage-scratched leather chaps, pepper, amber, and citrus. Meanwhile, Purple Sage combines notes of purple sage, mandarin, grapefruit, and rhubarb for a musky and fruity scent that hints at the delicacy and strength embedded in the landscapes of the American West.
‘This is the first time I have designed perfumes and made crystal pieces,’ says Turrell of the collaboration. 'The olfactory sense elicits memory more so than any other sense and it was with Lalique and the perfumers that I was able to do this. Creating a perfume is a bit like creating a world you have known.
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Mary Cleary is a writer based in London and New York. Previously beauty & grooming editor at Wallpaper*, she is now a contributing editor, alongside writing for various publications on all aspects of culture.
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