An Interview With Maïté Chanay Of Le Grand Musée Du Parfum
The absence (of perfumery in the arts) is at the origin of the idea for the Museum, and the desire to create an emblematic place to enhance this profession, which belongs to France.
Ahead of Map of the Heart's inclusion in Pierre Dinand's retrospective exhibition 'Parfums De Legende', we talk to Maïté Chanay from Le Grand Musée Du Parfum about the recently opened museum and what it represents in the hearts of France.
How was the Le Grand Musée du Parfum founded?
The origin of Le Grand Musée du Parfum is part of simple analysis and observation. French perfumery did not have a cultural place devoted to the art of perfume in Paris. This absence is at the origin of the idea for the Museum, and the desire to create an emblematic place to enhance this profession, which belongs to France.
It is Guillaume de Maussion (an entrepreneur) who initiated the project by surrounding himself with major players in perfumery such as the French Syndicate of Perfumery, an important company in the fine fragrance business, International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), but also many representatives of the industry, such as industry leaders in the sector or some of the major brands and groups on the market.
What was the overall intention and purpose of this project?
Perfume in France is obvious. It is a pillar in our history, our heritage, our art de vivre. It intrigues, captivates and fascinates. There was no emblematic place in Paris where anyone could be in touch with this, exploring the ritual which is both universal and individual. It is allowing people to discover who is behind this elixir and possess the gift of expressing what we are, and what we aspire to be.
How has the museum been received since it’s grand opening?
Two years were needed to develop and create the museum, which opened its doors to the public on December 22nd. Since then, the Museum has expanded its permanent program of workshops, which launched in April. These workshops offer the possibility for young and old alike to go further in their discovery of the world of odours, specifically by taking initiative into the olfactory accord composition, in a real perfumer’s workshop. The permanent tour of the museum will continue to be enriched in the coming months with the opening of a new sequence in the museum pathway.
Can you discuss some of the programs which you run at the atelier?
In the perfumer’s workshop, located on the second floor of the Museum, perfume lovers will be able to test their sense of smell, discover all the secrets of an eau de cologne, initiate the composition, or discover the cultural evolution in the relationship of individuals and their perfume over the years.
Tailor-made workshops are also offered for children and teenagers.
Are many of your visitors from within the local community, or do you have a heavier international audience?
When the museum opened, the visitors were mainly French. The proportion of foreigners has slowly exceeded in the following months.
What type of technologies have you used to introduce perfume to visitors? Are there any specialised systems exclusive to the museum?
Above all, Le Grand Musée du Parfum has a collection of odours (not objects), with more than 70 created specifically by IFF for the Museum. These odours have characteristics of dry, alcohol-free odours; which the technology and the associated diffusion systems ensure a visiting path without any discomfort for the visitor. Then, both in its interactive journey and in innovative scenography, Le Grand Musée du Parfum is based on the latest technologies: videos, holograms, creating a unique installation combining touch, olfaction and listening. These systems are in order to allow the visitor a unique, playful and immersive journey.
“The Museum's aim is to offer its visitors a new cultural place to discover, develop and sharpen one of our most remarkable but often forgotten senses: our sense of smell."
The museum is very focused on olfaction. Do you see a connection between the olfactory experience and the perfume industry?
Indeed. For a long time, professionals in the luxury and perfume sector were waiting for a cultural place devoted to the art of perfume. This gap is now filled through the opening of Le Grand Musée du Parfum. The Museum’s aim is to offer its visitors a new cultural place to discover, develop and sharpen one of our most remarkable but often forgotten senses: our sense of smell.
Do you feel a growing interest in the processes and history of perfume in recent years?
It is evident that there is a strong interest in the subject, because perfume is still very mysterious to the general public. The power of olfaction on our emotions and memories, but also the process of creation and its mystery that surrounds the creators, are increasingly fascinating. The intention of Le Grand Musée du Parfum is that each of its visitors can discover or rediscover their sense of smell and better understand the artistic approach of the creator-perfumer.
Aside from originating in France, why do you think perfume is so emblematic to the nation and its culture?
The art of perfume has become emblematic in France with the rise of French perfumery. Since the 1830s, France has become a land of choice for perfume, notably thanks to two major assets: Paris, the world capital of taste and elegance, and Grasse, the city of flowers.
Le Grand Musée du Parfum traces the rise of modern perfumery, with scenography in the gallery, representing a covered passage/walkway in Paris. This illustrates the 4 epochs within the rise of French perfumery.
Tell us about the Pierre Dinand exhibition. Have you curated similar exhibitions before?
It is a great honor for Le Grand Musée du Parfum to welcome Pierre Dinand’s ‘Parfums de Légende’ exhibition. This exhibition aims to highlight this relatively unknown profession of a designer in Perfumery, of which Pierre Dinand was the initiator. Through the exhibition, visitors will be able to discover, or re-discover, a selection of emblematic bottles, in giant format, of which were selected amongst 1000 creations by Dinand.
The exhibition presents UNSCENT Glove Lovers, which is currently on display in the museum, highlights the expertise of the master perfuming glove-makers, their role in the development of the French Parfumerie, and the creations of the Swedish glove-maker Thomas Barnekow, a modern reinterpretation of this ancestral craft.
What’s next for the museum?
The Museum will also host the 13th edition of the exhibition ‘Chambre à Part’ conceived by art consultant Laurence Dreyfus. This exhibition, which is part of the FIAC Private Experience, will be presented on the 2nd floor of the museum, into the core of the permanent exhibition and will be on the theme ‘Parfums de Femmes’.
Visitors will be able to discover a selection of evocative works that are part of the history of contemporary art with a fil rouge around the perfume. The perfume embodies an identity and releases a particular aura as for the artists selected for this exhibition, all of which have a special signature.
‘Parfums De Legende’ opens 17th October – 19th November at Les Grand Musée du Parfum, Paris.
The museum will exhibit co-founder Jeffrey Darling’s short film about Dinand, as well as our giant Gold Heart v.4.
Map of the Heart will be available at the museum store during the exhibition.
Le Grand Musée Du Parfum
Interview by Map of the Heart
Photography by Jodie Hill