To smell with the Eyes Images of Scent since the Renaissance   12.06. – 15.08.2021

To Smell with the Eyes: Images of Scent since the Renaissance

How can one depict smell? For centuries, artists have attempted to answer this question by giving visual form to the fleeting experience of smell in paintings, sculptures and drawings. In the course of “Smell it!”, a joint project between ten Bremen art institutions, the Kunsthalle Bremen will be presenting historic depictions of smells and scents since the sixteenth century, promoting a dialogue between these works and a new work by contemporary Colombian artist Oswaldo Maciá (b. 1960).

Smells are a part of everyday life and special moments in life, but these invisible, fleeting phenomena are challenging subjects to represent in works of art. The exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bremen invites visitors to smell with their eyes: Which forms and shapes do odours take? How do we use our sense of smell to perceive the world around us? How are scents staged in human interactions? The exhibition brings together paintings, works on paper, photographs and sculptures from different centuries. These include detailed prints by Hans Weiditz and Albrecht Altdorfer that recount the use of fragrances in the Renaissance, brilliantly coloured paintings by artists such as Paula Modersohn-Becker and Aline von Kapff, humorous folios by William Hogarth and Honoré Daumier, the JOB poster by Alphonse Mucha as well as more recent objects, drawings, and photographs by such artists as Andreas Slominski, Günter Grass and Tom Wood.

The Colombian olfactory artist Oswaldo Maciá (b. 1960) is creating a new, large-scale contemporary work especially for the Bremen show: New Cartographies of Smell Migration. It cites Central American olfactory traditions and identifies global connections through the use of smell. Sounds and scents are Maciá’s primary artistic materials. By using them, he questions the traditional idea of art as a visual experience and of the museum as a place for viewing.

The exhibition is focusing on the history of smelling, reeking and fragrant scents in the visual arts. The exhibition thus examines the role played by our sense of smell. In addition, a giant model of a nose, kindly provided by the kek Kindermuseum, encourages to explore one’s own olfactory experiences.

Smell it! The Fragrance of Art“ is a joint project on smell in contemporary art by: GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, kek Kindermuseum, Künstlerhaus Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen, Kunstverein Bremerhaven, Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Städtische Galerie Bremen, Weserburg Museum für moderne Kunst, Zentrum für Künstlerpublikationen. At the core of the project are ten individual exhibitions, a series of lectures and a joint education programme from May to July 2021.


(Fig. exhibition overview: Oswaldo Maciá, New Cartographies of Smell Migration, 2021, Installation view Kunsthalle Bremen, © Oswaldo Maciá, photo: Franziska von den Driesch))

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