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Beauty Beat: Fragrance Takes a Visual Approach

Beauty brands are making a statement in the art world here.

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An image from Sam Samores Belladonna exhibit at Giorgio Armani
Flacon Jean-Michel Othoniel for Parfum de Larmes by Baccarat 2006

PARIS — Beauty brands are making a statement in the art world here.

Numerous manufacturers, fragrance companies and retailers — Kenzo, Lacroix, Armani, Lalique and Baccarat — are underscoring the link between artistic creativity and product innovation by hosting a mélange of exhibitions and sponsoring the arts.

Among those joining the artsy party is Quest International. The Ashford, England, fragrance supplier is backing Essences Insensées, an olfactive exhibition and tour that opened last week on the Left Bank here.

As part of the biannual Parcours Saint-Germain-des-Prés art exhibit, Quest perfumers collaborated with 13 artists to concoct scents inspired by their work. The journey showcases pieces from 35 international artists in numerous locales for three weeks in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. The fragrances and artwork also went on display at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts last week.

"The fragrance part was inspired by the idea of having perfume to scent an evening," said Anne-Pierre d'Albis, the exhibition's curator. "It's to show that perfume could be a subject on which artists could work."

The scents vary from Parfum Eau de Brume, a Scotch whiskey fragrance created by artist Pae White and perfumer Frederique Lecoeur, to Parfum de Sakura, based on Japanese cherry blossom to conjure up Tokyo in the springtime, by Japanese photographer Kimiko Yoshida and nose Jacques Huclier.

New York artist Sam Samore was inspired by so-called "magic mushrooms" when creating his fragrance, which was blended by Michel Girard. It contains notes of pepper, incense and aldehydes. "Perfume can be like a hallucination," said Samore. "Fragrances trigger memories."

Manufacturers, including Lalique and Baccarat, chipped in to create flacons for the scents.

The artistic journey through Saint-Germain includes Daniel Firman's installation at the Christian Lacroix boutique, which depicts two life-size people trapped in giant vanilla molecules, as if caught by the scent. Matthew McCaslin's Flowerbed will be shown at the Kenzo store, featuring screens portraying a quickened version of a flower's life cycle. At Brazilian beauty brand Natura's flagship, Hugues Decointet will show a film featuring the noises of the sea accompanied by the aroma of Natura essential oils.

"Belladonna," Samore's exhibition at the Giorgio Armani store, is a series of photographs and a video featuring eyes blinking through flowers. The artist was inspired by the tale of the poisonous plant belladonna, which was once used by women to dilate their pupils, resulting in blindness.

The exhibition started May 30 and runs through June 20.

Currently, Beiersdorf-owned Nivea is hosting Ultra Peau (Ultra Skin, in English), an exhibition focusing on all things dermal, at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The interactive exhibit highlights the relationship people have with their skin, featuring magnified photographs of skin samples from Nivea's laboratories, as well as a section dedicated to tattooing. A competition between students at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et des Métiers d'Arts features futuristic objects associated with skin. And the entire space is infused with scents inspired by Nivea products.

That exhibition, which was kicked off in late April, is to run through June 21.

Over at the Daniel and Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation, founded in 1996, a prize has been created for contemporary drawing. The winning artist, who must have cultural ties to France, will receive 15,000 euros, or $20,000 at current exchange, from founders Daniel Guerlain, a fifth-generation descendant of perfumer Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, and his wife, Florence. The prize will be awarded in March 2007 and every two years following.

Based in Mesnuls, France, a town outside Paris, the foundation boasts a private collection of contemporary works by artists such as Tony Cragg and Anne Ferrer, as well as a sculpture park, which is open to visitors by appointment.