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Smell and Tell | Drella Was a Smellaholic: Andy Warhol’s Love Affair with Perfume


Wednesday April 17, 2019: 6:30pm to 8:45pm


Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room


"I’m really into girls’ scents," [Andy] Warhol told me, in his whispery voice, when speeches were over and the food was served. His face was like a woodland creature’s, under a stork’s nest of hair. He had not yet heard of Beautiful. “Beautiful?” he said. “Are you serious? That’s the name? I love it. Are they giving a party for it? When? I have about ten bottles of Poison, yes. I love it. And Coco. I have one bottle of that, but I want to get another bottle before I open it. Obsession, that’s great.

 Source: Fraser, Kennedy, As Gorgeous as it Gets. The New YorkerSeptember 15, 1986.

 Andy Warhol was a full-on smellaholic. The roots of his passion for perfume go back to the beginning of his career when he worked as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s. The postwar scentscape of New York City was bouqueted with classic fragrances when Warhol worked for GlamourHarper’s Bazaar and other clients. The more he learned about perfume the more curious he became.

 Warhol’s romance with perfume evolved into a lifelong obsession when he set out to make a name for himself as an artist. He began collecting perfumes in the 1960s, the same decade he became famous for incorporating repetition and mechanization in pop art. Warhol began his Time Capsule project in 1974, organizing congeries as representations of his life in cardboard storage boxes that included perfumes from his “permanent smell collection”, a term he coined to suit his need as a vicarious collector of scent.

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again was published a year after Warhol’s Time Capsule project began. He explored the intersection of perfume in relationship to memory, emotion, and atmosphere in the tenth chapter. Warhol’s informative musings foreshadowed content found in scholarship and perfume blogs decades later, when discussing the sense of smell became more acceptable alongside the 2004 Nobel Prize awarded to Robert Axel and Linda B. Buck for their discoveries of "odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system".

We’ll explore the evolution of Andy Warhol’s love of perfumes alongside history and curious facts at this Smell & Tell program. The scent flight includes fragrances that shaped Warhol’s experience as a commercial illustrator and aromatic encounters thereafter.

The Smell and Tell series of art+science programming is led by Michelle Krell Kydd, a trained nose in flavors and fragrance who shares her passion for gastronomy and the perfume arts on Glass Petal Smoke. Smell & Tell builds community through interactions with flavor, fragrance and storytelling. The Smell & Tell series began in 2012 and is ongoing.

Smell and Tell Andy Warhol