Scent Art

Scent (a.k.a. aroma/odor/olfaction/olfactive/olfactory/smell) Art is a segment of contemporary art in which scent plays a major role. Scent Art traces its roots back to the beginnings of modern art in the 20th century. It has demonstrated throughout that century surprising resilience, thanks to its versatility and ability to adapt to the shifting winds of modern art movements. (Here is a Historical Overview of Olfactory Art in the 20th Century.)

With the turn of the millennium, however, there has been a veritable boom in scent art production around the world. On the one hand that may be explained by the multitude of new possibilities engendered by recent technical advances; on the other hand it could be attributed to the sense of isolation and disembodiment brought on to our lived experience by these very same technological shifts.

From Times Square, New York to Alexanderplatz, Berlin; from the Venice Biennale to the Biennales of Thessaloniki and Istanbul; from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to the Shanghai EXPO; artists of all nationalities—Korean and Japanese, Czech and Belgian, Colombian and Canadian—are creating scent artwork that is as diverse as contemporary art can be.

With the digitization of sight and sound, smell has become one of the last bastions of materiality in an age of immaterial globalization. The resistance of odor to digitization makes it one of the aspects of an artwork that still demands the physical presence of its audience in order to experience it. As such scent is, perhaps unintentionally, emerging as a refuge for the necessity of embodiment in the artistic experience.

This is why, we believe, this would be an exhilarating exercise, communicating in images and words that which cannot (yet) be experience through a screen: scent. So we hope you enjoy this tension between the virtual and the physical, the embodied and the ethereal, that is this digital presentation of Scent Art in the New Millennium.

– Adapted from the Abstract of Historical Overview of Olfactory Art in the 20th Century by Ashraf Osman