Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Orleans Museum of Art to Open Fragrance Bottle Exhibition

New Orleans Museum of Art Curator John Keefe and his Department of Creative Arts proudly announce the opening of SCENTS and Sensibility, an appropriately-titled exhibition showcasing 125 objects covering the history of the scent bottle from its ancient origins to the present day. Scents, or perfumes, have been a part of civilization for more than four thousand years and have characterized every known civilization. “Scents and their containers have fascinated the world from Julius Caesar to Coco Chanel,” Keefe said. In celebration of Rene Lalique's 150th birthday, the exhibition includes several of his pieces including the "Hirondelles" piece (depicted) recently reissued by Neiman Marcus.

“Perfume has always been a luxury product and it’s interesting that the bottles accurately reflect different eras,” Keefe said. “Scents and Sensibility is a true representation of changes in styles and fashion. Each vessel is mesmerizing.”

Objects within Scents and Sensibility include scent bottles, powder boxes, talc jars and similar objects made to hold scented contents. Permanent collection pieces as well as those on loan from regional collectors range from approximately 1100 B.C. to the present day. Glass, pottery, gold, porcelain, hardstone and silver are all represented in the collection, as well as some recognizable names: Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Christian Dior, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Peter Carl Fabergé, René Lalique and Stueben Glass. Twentieth-century objects include bottles whom some might look upon with nostalgia, coming from great couturiers such as Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin and Christian Dior, as well as celebrated parfumeurs Guerlain and Desprez.

To celebrate the opening of this fragrance-filled showcase, the Museum will host a free opening reception featuring Hove Parfumeurs from 6-8 p.m. on June 30, 2010. Hove's owner Amy can Calsem Wendel will educate guests regarding how her unique local boutique crafts fragrances using indigenous Creole materials. A full cash bar featuring frozen "couture cosmos" will be available in honor of Chanel, Givency, Dior and other couturiers highlighted within the exhibit. Brennan's Courtyard Cafe will remain open as well, offering a selection of pastires, soups and coffee. This opening event is free and open to the public. The exhibition will remain on display until October 24, 2010.

Wednesdays are FREE for all Museum visitors. Louisiana residents with valid photo identification: Adults, $8; Seniors (65 and up), $7; Children 3-17, $4; Children under 3, free. Out-of-state visitors: Adults, $10; Seniors (65 and up), $9; Children 3-17, $5; Children under 3, free. Free Wednesdays and discounted admission for Louisiana residents is made possible through the generosity of The Helis Foundation. Admission to the adjacent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, featuring work by 61 artists, including several of the 20th century’s great master sculptors is always free.

photo of Rene Lalique bottle for the perfume Les Hirondelles.


  1. Another great reason to go to New Orleans! I so wish I could be there for the opening, but maybe I'll make it down before the exhibit closes. Sounds lovely.

  2. M,

    it does sound very exciting, there aren't many such exhibitions, so I do hope you go! I would love to schedule a trip myself later in the summer, if I can cram it into my program.

    Hope you're peachy!

  3. Eleonore14:39

    Oh I'd love to go and see this exhibition (I love Louisiana and New Orleans too)...I wish it weren't is it so far away from France and Europe, hope I may make it in October

  4. Valentine19:02

    If I was anywhere near the area (or at least on the right side of the country), I would probably make my way to this exhibit. At the same time, I don't really think this pushes the envelope in terms of the general public recognizing perfumery as a true artform any time soon. By focusing on the bottles rather than the perfumes inside (which I've never gotten the feel many perfume lovers do), it's really just a small sculpture exhibit--small sculptures that just happen to all be able to hold/spray/dispense fragranced alcohol. The reception, however, sounds fascinating, and I hope I get to read more coverage of this event around the interwebs

  5. The New Orleans Museum of Art is in a lovely liveoak and bayou surrounded setting which used to be a plantation a couple of centuries ago. The famous Dueling Oaks are just a short walk from the Museum steps.

    Helg, if you go, let me know and I'll give you some insider tips. Also, Orchidbloom (Michelle) and TJen (Carla) happen to live in NOLA. They are lovely fun perfume lovers!

  6. Eleonore,

    you and me too! Maybe we will get to cram the time and go.

  7. Valentine,

    you certainly raise a succinct point and I agree with you to some extend. The Barcelona museum of perfume is like that as well: a bottle exhibit. Impressive, but sculptural (well-put!)
    Yet, hopefully, some of the designs could inspire people to search for the fragrances, to make them dream a little on the history of those vessels of essence and time...

  8. Morticia,

    thanks so much for the informed additions, people she's a local and knows her stuff.

    I sincerely hope to be able to make it and I will certainly let you know about it. Nothing better than meeting up with perfume loving folks (both ladies sound great!!)


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