Perfume at Somerset House


25 July 2017

A couple of weeks ago the Matter team headed down to London for New Designers, we saw it as a great opportunity to catch a couple exhibitions beforehand. A few of us decided upon the Perfume exhibition at Somerset House...

Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent took us on an unexpected multi-sensory rollercoaster, challenging our perceptions, affronting our senses, and allowing us to be fully immersed in 21st century fragrances. 

The show focused on ten contemporary perfumes, telling the story of how scent has radically evolved over the past 20 years and showcasing them in arresting ways. 

Ten immersive and unique spaces held no images, no descriptive text, just visual, auditory and tactile prompts alongside the scent itself. We were invited to pick up a pad of paper and pen, allowing us to note down our thoughts on each scent and how we experienced them. The task at hand seeming surprisingly tricky, offered an insight in the intricacy and talent involved in the production of each unique scent.

At the end of the exhibition each scent and perfumer was revealed, accompanied with an (potentially shocking) ingredient list. Our very very low score sheets seemed to reveal the fun we had may have exceeded our skill to recognise the elements!

‘Perfume isn’t just about being sexy and alluring anymore – now we not only want to smell different to everyone else but different to before.’ 

Somerset House senior curator Claire Catterall.

Some scents disgusted, some enthralled but it's safe to say we began to understand the value of scent a whole lot more. One sniff and you can be immediately transported to a time and a place, we're unsure any photograph or song can achieve quite the same visceral memory.

Taking in the woody scents of Room 7