All Articles
All Articles

The Institute for Art and Olfaction


The Institute for Art and Olfaction

Aiming to create greater engagement with the art and science of perfumery

by CH Contributor
on 25 June 2013

by Mya Stark


Scent provides us with countless moments of pleasure every day—from submerging in soaps and lotions during our morning routine; to being perked up before the coffee even touches our lips; to being tantalized by the food on our plates. Because scent is attached to almost every one of our experiences, selecting a perfume or cologne is more an act of intimacy than one of adornment.

However, it's not often that we think deeply about this sense. The Institute for Art and Olfaction (IAO), newly opened in downtown Los Angeles' LA Mart design center, aims to change that. The IAO works in many ways, but its mission remains to "extend the world of scent beyond its traditional boundaries of appreciation and use."


The IAO's founder, Saskia Wilson-Brown, comes from an eclectic background, personally and professionally. Raised between London and Los Angeles, she received her MFA from Central Saint Martins, then worked in the film industry. The olfactory is a recent interest for her, spurred by her discovery of a recent explosion of activity in self-educated, DIY and "audacious" perfumery.


For the IAO, Wilson-Brown gathered a board of perfumers—both classically-trained and "indie"— including a molecular biologist, a sensory psychologist, artists in various media, fragrance industry professionals, a professor of Indian religions and even a YouTube star. To anchor the team, she brought on Kóan Jeff Baysa, a curator and physician with a particular interest in the sensate body, as Program Director.


To Wilson-Brown, the IAO is not about making "pretty-smelling things." It's about "intervention, weirdness, strange juxtapositions, science, discomfort." The IAO brings these about through informal, social education on the topic of scent in the form of events and talks, and via a residency program in which creative practitioners are matched with experts in the olfactory system.


Currently, a number of residents are working on projects which include conducting "scent interviews" in Rwanda and creating a "pleasant-smelling" scent-dispersing device based on riot-gear tear gas canisters with planned deployment in Beverly Hills. For those not able to attend IAO events in person, the institute's online store offers artifacts of their interventions as well as other collaborations, such as a series of scented gold-foil prints inspired by fragrance molecules by Autumnseventy.

Images courtesy of the Institute for Art and Olfaction

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like