Sarah Baker Perfumes at Institute for Art and Olfaction, LA
When Sarah Baker called to ask if I could fly to California and assist with her exhibition and Sarah Baker Perfumes launch party at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles, I didn’t require much convincing.
Some fabrication and design prep in San Francisco? Yes.
Days later I found myself in San Francisco, loading a life-size cut-out of Sarah Baker and a crate of meticulously-designed perfume packages into a VW station wagon. And we were off…
The concept of the exhibition was a pop-up perfume boutique. Sarah Baker Perfumes transformed the IAO gallery and storefront into a luxury perfume retail experience. Lured by a theatrical window display of gold, black and sparkling glass bottles, visitors were welcomed into a world of decadence and desire.
Much like her art practice, Sarah’s first four scents were designed to conjure glamourous realms. Leopard, Greek Keys, Lace, and Tartan each evoke a different fantasy experience: Leopard is a party animal, taking you on a wild chauffeur-driven night uptown. It is a classic fragrance with a rose and violet heart, warm spicy top notes, yet it’s dirty and earthy. With a delicious citrus cocktail on top, Greek Keys transports you to a sun-kissed yacht, overlooking the clear open water, with a fresh breeze in your hair. Lace is a more intimate and naughty fragrance—think candlelit boudoir with satin sheets. Don't let the honeyed vanilla and coconut fool you—jasmine and musk will nibble at your ears. Tartan evokes a blazing open fire in a Highlands pub. It’s a cedar fragrance with a shot of whiskey and a cozy tartan blanket after a brisk walk in the cold mossy marsh.
So convincing were the Sarah Baker Perfumes window displays that several neighbors stopped by during installation to ask if the IAO had been replaced by Sarah Baker Perfumes. “Where did Saskia go?,” asked one concerned shop owner. “Saskia and the IAO are not going anywhere…this is just a temporary exhibition,” I reassured him.
Upon entering the IAO’s project space, visitors were greeted by a department store display and a shop girl offering scent strips…a bit unsettling when you realized the shop girl was actually a life-size cut-out of Sarah Baker herself, luxuriating a satin robe made of the same custom-made Sarah Baker Perfumes fabric as the display case.
Two of Sarah’s LA friends really enhanced the scene by arriving dressed in fabric motifs of the scents – one in a tartan wrap, another in a lace-printed suit. Meanwhile, Sarah herself wore a nautical Greek keys print blouse, and Saskia wore a lovely tartan cocktail dress.
Across the room was the real Sarah Baker, chatting with visitors and enjoying a beautiful and balmy LA evening. The crowd spilled out of the exhibition space onto the storefront. The display windows glowed from within while guests sipped cocktails under the red Chinatown lanterns above. Two parrots named Charlie and Lola from the adjacent storefront, Preen, were lulled to sleep by the sound of perfume conversation. It was a perfect night.
Thanks to Sarah Baker, Saskia Wilson-Brown and the IAO for a great experience for this East Coast girl. I’m available for travel to the next exhibition!