Monday, November 3, 2008

Chandler Burr interviewed about his upcoming New York Times Talk

We had announced the other day about an upcoming lecture encompassing a "Brief History of Perfume from 1889 to 2008", hosted by the New York Times and fronted by Chandler Burr, journalist, author and fragrance critic for the New York Times. Perfume Shrine had a few questions to ask about this exciting upcoming event and since many of you could be interested to participate (click here for info on how), I thought it might prove interesting. I am in no position to reveal what fragrances will be presented and analysed for your sniffing enjoyment (it would spoil the surprise), but I can shed a little light with aid of Chandler himself who was delightful to talk to as always.

PS: So Chandler, what is so different in these New York Times Talks as opposed to your scent dinners? ~apart from the dining part, of course!

CB: The lecture is a completely different intellectual and aesthetic focus. The dinners use only culinary perfumes and food-based raw materials (vanillin, chocolate and fruit accords, etc.). The lecture will be 15 of the landmark scent works of art, comparing them to art and music.

PS: Which are the criteria with which you came upon a selection of 15 perfumes to present? Is it their iconic status, their shaping the trends potential, artistic value and innovation or something else?

CB: The final decision is based on innovation and/or iconic status. These are, in my view, scents that changed perfume either by their technical differences or their aesthetic novelty.

PS: Who is attending these talks? Who would you like to see attending?

CB: Really anyone interested in scent. Obviously there are a lot of industry people coming since it's their products I'm discussing, and a lot of people who are perfume lovers, but we're planning on speaking to many who simply are interested in the idea of the subject and know nothing about perfume at all.

PS: On that note: Do you think that the opening up of as yet untapped audiences thanks to the power of the Internet presents a challenge to the companies? If so, do they welcome or abhor it? For instance, the increasingly raised interest in perfumery as evidenced in such events as your talk or other events helps towards a better appreciation of the art of perfumery or is it slowly but surely harnessed ~with some difficulty perhaps~ into a new marketing technique for the industry?

CB: I think that fundamentally the industry both loves and hates the internet, and that's entirely normal. They dislike the lack of control-- they were used to controlling the entire image of the perfumes and all the information written about them, and that's gone. But they love-- as they should-- the flows of interest in perfume and the discussion of it. Ultimately it's just going to make it more interesting to more people.

PS: What would be your hope for people who will attend your talk to retain as a memory of this event?

CB: What I think will be most startling to people is my contention, which I hope to demonstrate with visual art and music, that perfume is an art form equal in its medium to painting and music. I stipulate "in its medium" because each sense is different, and each has different abilities to stimulate the brain (which is all art does anyway). The point is that perfume is, in fact, an art, something I think most people are startled to hear.

PS: And finally something I'd been meaning to ask for ever: Could you pinpoint one specific fragrance which you consider a supreme masterpiece yourself? (that's quite difficult, I know...but I wanted to ask anyway)

CB: I just think that's impossible. It's like choosing the greatest painting. Unimaginable.

PS: Thanks Chandler for your time and hope the lecture goes as you wish it to.

Please read a full interview with Chandler Burr on assorted matters around perfumery, writing and fragrance criticism on Perfume Shrine clicking here for part 1 and part 2.

Painting by Salvador Dali Self-portrait Mona Lisa 1954 via


  1. Unfortunately, a trip to NYC not in the works. :(

    Will you be going? If so, more importantly...will you be reporting??


  2. If you are going Helg - I hope you have a sniffy good time!

  3. Anonymous15:39

    Dear Helg,

    Kudos for yet another great interview! I know you are extremely busy so don't worry about replying all my e-mails. (Please get some sleep when you can.)

    I'm quite excited about Chandler's event: it shall be interesting to compare his list of masterpieces with Michael Edwards's. My schedule for this December however is going to be super crazy so I can't possibly fly to New York :-(

    Anyhow, keep up the great work and I'll try my best to show you a few pieces that I've been working on! All the best.


  4. Dear S,

    If I manage it through my already overbooked schedule, I will. :-)

  5. Dear M,

    thanks, we'll see.

  6. Dear A,

    thanks for saying so and sleep is indeed much needed...
    Hope your own schedule lightens up too.
    I have read your mails but didn't get around to replying, alas; will do so as soon as time allows. In the meantime, feel free to let me know what you want and feel comfortable with. :-)


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