Olfactory Art : Art Form that Connects to Human Memories

Olfactory art was first conceptualized by Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp, a French American artist who specialized in painting, sculpture and conceptualized art. This art form is conceptual in nature, mainly using various scent emitting objects as primary medium. His first known olfactory art exhibit took place in 1938, which featured French poet Benjamin Peret roasting coffee beans behind the screen.

Duchamp’s reputation as an artist is in league with contemporaries Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Yet he was wont to criticize Matisse’s work as visual art that pleases, only the human eyes. To Marcel Duchamp, art that is complete must also be useful to the human mind.

Duchamp’s Idea of Complete Art is Nose-Related

At that time, people was of the notion that the eyes were more potent than the nose when it comes to the process of recalling memories. Duchamp’s conceptualization of olfactory art during the era is quite remarkable; because at that time, people’s knowledge of the five senses was limited to what school textbooks offered as information.

Today, we can find a host of scientific reports stating that neurobiologists have proven the nose as more powerful; being connected to a brain nucleus in charge of processing and retrieving memories. Different scents passing through the nose register in the olfactory nucleus as memories. Once a person’s nose receives a particular smell that has already imprinted memories in the olfactory nucleus, then that person is likely to be reminded of persons, places or event related to the scent.

That goes without saying that when a scent used in olfactory art retrieves a happy memory, a person’s mood perks up. In the same way, if a scent triggers the recall of an unpleasant memory, a person’s mood can be affected in a negative way. A change in mood therefore can yield a corresponding positive emotion: love, joy, awe, amusement, contentment, gratitude, hope, compassion, interest or pride. Negative emotions on the other hand may bring out anger, grief, jealousy, envy, fesr, anxiety, annoyance, shame, aggression, abomination, agony and loneliness.

Olfactory Art Teaches Lessons in Scent Appreciation

Olfactory art engages viewers to explore different scents as a way of remembering people, places and events not only in one’s personal life; but also for those that made significant changes and differences that paved the way for improvement and/or advancements.

A scented stationery for example can evoke a feeling of nostalgia among senior citizens; reminding them of a time when long distance communications were carried out by way of letters. The younger set of audience on the other hand, will experience feelings of gratitude and appreciation for present day methods of communicating thru simple taps, clicks or swipes.

Anyone wishing to explore olfactory art that promotes recalling positive thoughts, can find a wide selection of scents at Grain & Gram, an online seller specializing in organically scented products,


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