Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Below is the partial text of a review in the new Art in America of installation/performance artist Francesco Vezzoli’s show involving a perfume launch, complete with starry opening, fashion hype and a
directed by Roman Polanski.

"by cornelia lauf

ROME Greed may be out of fashion these days, but it remains very much on the mind of Francesco Vezzoli. Demure and self-effacing, Vezzoli claims to live out of a suitcase in Milan, and would seem to be far removed from the fashionable subjects that preoccupy him. He is known, however, for spectacular and very costly art productions, including theatrical performances that often grapple with themes of vice and virtue. For this show, Vezzoli staged a luxury perfume launch. The spectacle included a 60-second commercial directed by Roman Polanski and featuring a tussling Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams, an enormous crystal flacon filled with amber liquid and other supporting props.

True to the sleight of hand that characterizes many of Vezzoli’s productions, a real perfume was never produced. Rather, his installation dealt with the hype that drives fashion, commerce and art, and shapes the experience of desire. A slide-show version of the commercial could be seen on the Internet in advance of the show, a special color advertising supplement appeared in the London edition of the International Herald Tribune the day of the opening, and duped perfume bloggers eagerly speculated about the possible “notes” of this newcomer to the scent scene.”

C’mon, cornelia. Having just spent more than a little time searching for blog references to this version of “Greed” as a real perfume, I’ve found exactly...none.

I did find posts on the perfume blogs Now Smell This and on Scented Salamander, but they got the joke. So who are these “duped perfume bloggers”?

Let me suggest that perhaps they are a figment of an overheated art-writer’s imagination; a fabrication, if you will, as made-up as the launch itself. Perhaps the “duped perfume bloggers” were part of the show. I mean, why not?

Perfume-advertising mockery has been done before. Vezzoli himself admits the precedent to this work (Marcel Duchamp’s “Eau de Violette”). And of course there is the classic Gilda Radner “Hey You” piece from “Saturday Night Live” (watch it here ). And women fighting over a bottle of perfume -- seems like I’ve seen that somewhere. And and and and and.

Actually, Vezzoli’s campy idolatry has been done (um, Andy Warhol) and the whole concept feels, well, beyond postmodern. Vizzoli says that works like this are “an immodest attempt to mirror society’s silliest vices and devices.” He also said, in an interview with NPR’s “Marketplace,” “We are not wasting money. We are entertaining ourselves.”

The celebs and fashionistas seem to love Vizzoli. He’s cute, charming and lives without bothersome anchors like a residence, so that nothing will interfere with his art. (Presumably, someone else does the laundry.) Obviously, this has all worked well for him. If we’ve seen it before, well, what haven’t we seen before, any more?

So I would ask Ms. Lauf, the reviewer, were we part of the show?

Such company we keep!

Read the complete text of Cornelia Lauf’s Art in America review here.

Photo by SanSuzie at c-monster.net.

For an image of the Duchamp bottle (in a sale catalog as part of Yves St. Laurent’s estate) go here.


Anonymous said...

I second your question to Ms. Lauf.

I seem to remember SNL doing more than one perfect parody of Calvin Klein perfume commercials. Their "Calvin Klein Canine perfume" spot (b&w, swimming pool setting) was particularly good. If you've got more time this morning than I have, you'll want to track it down.

Olfacta said...

G -- will try to do that when I get time...I don't believe I ever saw that one!

Anonymous said...

It may have been called "Canine Klein"-- I still haven't searched for it-- but it was dead on. SNL also did a mock ad for Obsession household cleaner, another must-see. You'll enjoy them.
-- Gretchen

Perfumeshrine said...

I also recall the SNL parodies of CK perfumes! :-D

Good on you, P, well said.

It seems like "we're entertaining ourselves" is never without a business scope in the far off horizon, so I am holding out on this little project till that is clear, which is why I refrained on publicizing myself when it first appeared.

Olfacta said...

Good thinking E! Wonder if that's what's up.