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Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Andy Warhol Loved Perfumes So Much, He Created A 'Permanent Smell Collection'

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Andy Warhol is probably best known for his Marilyn Monroe screenprints or his Campbell’s soup cans series, but he stamped his artistic imprint on quite a number of genres. He made dozens of movies (including Chelsea Girls and Sleep), founded Interview magazine, managed The Velvet Underground for a bit, and even coined a phrase—“15 minutes of fame”—that's still used today. And though his penchant for obsessive documenting and collecting is also well known, his particular fascination with scents might not be.

Warhol’s range of interests was both oddly specific and seemingly random in scope. He had large collections of Art Deco silver, Fiestaware, World’s Fair memorabilia, Hollywood publicity stills, crime scene photos, and dental molds. For nearly 30 years, from the early ‘60s until his death in 1987, he saved all of the seemingly inconsequential ephemera from his daily life—fan letters, newspapers and magazines, photos, business and personal correspondence, announcements for poetry readings, exhibition catalogs—in cardboard boxes he referred to as "Time Capsules." But perhaps one of the most unusual of Warhol’s collecting projects was his "Permanent Smell Collection." He had an affinity for smells, which he described in his 1975 book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again):

Another way to take up more space is with perfume. […] I switch perfumes all the time. If I’ve been wearing one perfume for three months, I force myself to give it up, even if I still feel like wearing it, so whenever I smell it again it will always remind me of those three months. I never go back to wearing it again; it becomes part of my permanent smell collection.

Warhol admitted he had a habit of sneaking away during parties to see what the host’s preferred scents were. He wrote that he wouldn’t snoop through any of their personal effects, he was just "compulsive about seeing if there’s some obscure perfumes" he hadn’t tried yet himself.

Getty

Later, Warhol reflected on the (arguably underrated) power of smell, as well as a scent’s ability to be a time capsule in and of itself:

Of the five senses, smell has the closest thing to the full power of the past. Smell really is transporting. Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting are just not as powerful as smelling if you want your whole being to go back for a second to something. … The good thing about a smell memory is that the feeling of being transported stops the instant you stop smelling, so there are no aftereffects. It’s a neat way to reminisce.

Warhol seemed to regard the wearing and collecting of perfume as an art form, a form of documentation, and a way of exerting more control over atmosphere and near-total control over nostalgia. Warhol began amassing his collection of semi-used perfumes in the early '60s. "Before that the smells in my life were all just whatever happened to hit my nose by chance," he wrote. "But then I realized I had to have a kind of smell museum so certain smells wouldn’t get lost forever."

By 1975, the year Philosophy was published, Warhol described his scent collection as "very big," though he wasn’t specific about how many bottles it comprised. We do know, however, that Warhol’s perfume connoisseurship continued for the rest of his life—he made several mentions of perfume throughout the Andy Warhol Diaries, which he stopped writing just five days before his death in 1987.

But what became of Warhol’s perfume collection? Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum, which calls itself the “global keeper of Andy Warhol’s legacy,” is the largest museum in the nation dedicated to a single artist, and it houses not only pieces of his famous work, but also an archive of his personal effects and many of his smaller-scale and lesser-known projects. (For example, the archives contain 3000 of Warhol’s audiotapes, presumably from the era when he compulsively recorded all conversations and referred to his ever-present tape recorder as his "wife.")

Warhol’s "Permanent Smell Collection" still exists, at least to some degree, according to museum spokesperson Jessica Warchall. "Warhol’s perfume collection comprises hundreds of hygiene and perfume products," Warchall told mental_floss in an email. "The products, from Warhol’s personal collection and from several 'Time Capsules,' are held in the museum’s archives." Among the semi-used perfumes in the museum’s archives are Halston spray cologne, Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet eau de toilette, Braggi International cologne, Ma Griffe by Carven, Paris by Yves St. Laurent, and Devin cologne by Aramis.

Warhol speaking with Elizabeth Taylor, who was also a connoisseur of perfumes. Getty

Warchall also pointed out that Warhol represented his love of perfume in his visual art, including commissioned silkscreens for both Chanel and Halston, as well as other earlier works such as a 1950s drawing titled "Cat with Perfume Bottle," a 1953 ink drawing called "Perfume Bottle," and a 1962 work titled "Perfume Bottles and Lipstick."

Eventually, this lifelong obsession with scents became a little more permanent than even Warhol might have intended. At his burial, a friend rushed over and tossed some copies of Interview magazine into his open grave—along with a bottle of Estée Lauder Beautiful.

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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