Artist is paid to discover the sweet scent of success
Wednesday 13 January 1999
The plan to have "wafting chambers" in art galleries might sound like a satire on the Turner Prize but it has, in fact, been officially funded to the tune of pounds 12,500. Artist Clara Ursitti has won the grant to create "odour portraits" of the rich and famous. She is asking sports and showbiz celebrities to wear shirts impregnated with highly absorbent charcoal to pick up body scents.
These odour molecules will then be fed into a chemical analyser and the read-out will enable scientists to re-create the celebrities' scent mix, which will then be pumped into smell chambers in art galleries.
Ms Ursitti, who is working with Dr George Dodd, a scent expert and author, said: "Everyone has their own unique odour profile, which depends on the strength and combination of chemicals released by the body. We plan to open wafting chambers in galleries so that visitors can wander in and take a sniff."
Dr Dodd, who ran the UK's first smell research group at the University of Warwick, said:"We expect the scent of the sportsmen will smell very strongly of truffles but for other people there will be a delicate fresh shellfish smell, or even one of Camembert." He declined to identify the stars until the experiment is over.
Ms Ursitti, who has a masters degree from Glasgow School of Art, and Dr Dodd, a fellow Scot, won the pounds 12,500 grant from the Wellcome Trust.
The technique can also help in medical diagnosis, fighting crime and even detecting amate, according to Dr Dodd, who said: "Asthma sufferers and liver patients are known to have certain vapours in their breath. Police forces use scent as a form of fingerprinting and it can also be used in security systems where an individual odour becomes a a password.
"We can even take the risk out of dating - all animals react to scent, whether they know it or not. It's what the chemistry of sexual attraction is all about."
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