My favorite aspect of the show was the innovative decision to pipe a light fragrance into the display area around the silk dress. It's a wonderful multisensory experience! (At right, a detail photo of the righthand wall shown above.) Subtle enough that you might not notice it at first, the perfume emanates through a small panel with a label above it. This "Flora grand poudre" scent was specially commissioned from a Parisian parfumeur who based her creation on the perfumes of the 18th century—a combination of lillies and other flowers, sandalwood, and musk. Aptly named, it smells like a delectable cosmetic powder in a precious gold-and-abalone toilette box. Not usually one for powdery scents, I was enraptured all the same; how can we bring smell into visual exhibitions more often?
Over the weekend I got to visit two beautiful exhibitions in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg. The one about painting and the birth of photography will be the subject of a future post; today it's all about silk dresses! The show Luxury in Silk (Luxus in Seide, through Jan. 6) centers on a newly acquired silk dress from the 18th century. It is displayed in a chamber of its own in the center of the square exhibition room, with the "supporting actors" surrounding it: brooches and other period jewelry, old books and caricatures documenting fashion trends, and several pieces of clothing and shoes in unfinished form.
Ideas on Display
A humble space to reflect on concepts of museum display as enacted across a wide range of subjects, countries, and approaches.