When art has smell

The joint project by LABoral and the collection OlorVISUAL, has resulted into a non-conventional show that stimulates the sense of smell of visitors taking them from the subjective to the universal.

Published: Sep 15, 2014
When art has smell

Image: LABoral

By Laura Cano (@Via_di_uscita, La Caja Revuelta)

There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,

Sweet as oboes, green as meadows
And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,

With power to expand into infinity,
Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin, 
That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.

Correspondences. Charles Baudelaire.


What is the smell of an exhibition? is one of these perfect proposals, with no loose ends. It shows a selection of works of the collection of the perfumer Ernesto Ventós and the piece nanoEsencia_Grafeno, which is the result of the residency of the artist and engineer Hugo Martínez-Tormo at LABoral.

Ventós started the collection
OlorVISUAL in 1978. The pieces have been carefully selected by him, at the beginning he would visit the artists’ studios to commission specific works. This is an intimate collection directly linked with Ventós’ feeling and trade: Works must wake up the olfactory memory of the collector. Since then, the number of works included in the collection has multiplied, including not only renowned artists like Hirst or Tàpies, but also artists that are still tapping into the market and helping them, thus, to succeed. There is not a unique topic or technique, the works reflect contemporary life from the topics to the formats. Its most significant peculiarity is that the pieces must have smell.

The social dimension of the collection is very important for Ernesto. Because of this, since the exhibition
Olor de Cadaqués. Percepciones olfativas de la colección olorVISUAL, celebrated at the Museo de Cadaqués in 2013, it was decided that every show must include educational workshops and visits (olfactory experiences) that help the public immerse in the work, overcome the visual barrier and launch out into the deep, where smells can trigger very personal and subjective relationships that helps us stablish a direct relationship with art. Obviously, this exhibition at LABoral has also included its corresponding workshops.

In line with this social aspect the collector has given his collection,
a residency grant was called in partnership with LABoral, for artists under 40 who combine art and technology in their work. This grant was awarded to Hugo Martínez-Tormo, who has had at his disposal the infrastructures of the art centre during two months and enough budget for the production of his work nanoEsencia_Grafeno, which will be incorporated to the collection OlorVISUAL.

Hugo, starting from complicated mathematic operations and based on nanotechnological research, with
nanoEsencia_grafeno shows us the sound and color of atoms, something that we cannot perceive and, thanks to this immersive generative art installation, we are able to sense and imagine, with the help, of course, of an essence created by Ernesto Ventós.



The show curated by Alicia Ventura, is designed to present the piece by Martinez-Tormo and gathers a selection of audiovisual works by various artists and collectives: Andrea Bátorfi, Democracia, Nanna Hänninen, Carlos Irijalba, Clare Langan, Cristina Lucas, Albert Merino,Fleur Noguera, Marina Núñez, Javier Peñafiel, Benet Rossell, Charles Sandison, Amparo Sard, Martín Sastre, Hiraki Sawa, Mariana Vassileva,Tim White-Sobieski and Carla Zaccagnini.

The pieces of this exhibition stimulate the senses that the visitor normally would not use when facing a work of art. Here everything is sensitive, emotional. All pieces are accompanied by a text by the artist about the smell that his/her work suggests him/her, and by a smell designed by the collector.

Taking synaesthesia, the mix of sensations from different organs or the mix of such sensations with feelings, as the thread that runs through the exhibition, we walk by different proposals that takes us from the impossible and apocalyptic (
Clare Langan, Glass Hour 2002) to dreams (Hiraki Sawa, Sleeping Machine I, 2009). From the imanined (Amparo Sard, Hauptpunkt, Esencia, 2013) to the criticism of reality (Cristina Lucas, El eje del mal, 2003 o Democracia, Pablo España & Iván López, Charity, el olor de la caridad, 2006). From the personal (Nanna Hänninen, Meditation practices II. Trying to be a better me, 2009) to the universal (Javier Peñafiel, Conquista básica te vuelvo a pedir que te definas, 2004). Along the tour through the spaces of LABoral there is a continuous call upon our subjectivity that, focusing on image, sound and smell, invites us to create our own experience. To accept the smell designed for each work or propose the one that reflects our own personal impression.



What is the smell of an exhibition? Is therefore a great project: A very particular collection that poses a challenge to the visitor. A non-conventional exhibition where we can use senses so far forgotten in exhibitions. A selection of high-quality works. The opportunity given to artists that are starting to produce, exhibit and be part of a great collection. The educational and sensitive experience developed by the educational department. The combination of public and private effort to foster and disseminate contemporary art.

The show is open to the public until October 13.
We still have almost a month to smell art.

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