Smell your way through the Rozengeur international art exhibition

Published on September 22, 2023

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Have you ever wanted to experience multi-dimensional art? To walk up to artwork and smell the flowers or the forest in the picture? Now you can at the sensuous art exhibition 'Smells like Roses - Rozengeur.'

Let scented art pieces from the Netherlands and Aotearoa take you on a journey of the mind. Walk among moss and pines. Smell the roses and explore lush scents wafting towards you. Olfactory art, as you've never experienced before, opens in Foxton's Māpuna Kabinet Art Gallery on 1 April and will run until early July 2023.

"Artworks, imbued with scents, are known to create intimate or mood-changing experiences that can evoke memories and emotions," says Arjan van der Boon, Co-Chair of the Oranjehof Dutch Connection museum and co-curator of the exhibition. 

Even though New Zealand galleries have paid brief attention to the art form and a few perfumers have set up exciting businesses over the last few years, Olfactory art is still mostly unknown in Aotearoa.

The Māpuna Kabinet Art Gallery – in the multi-cultural Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom facility – switches between Māori, Pākeha and Dutch New Zealand exhibitions. The 'Smells like Roses – Rozengeur' exhibition brings all three cultures together to reflect the partnership that runs the award-winning cultural centre in the arts and heritage town of Foxton.

"Dutch museums have used paper strips or 'scent dispensers' to evoke, for example, 18th-century canal house odours – both fragrant and foul. Today, established institutions like the Rijksmuseum, where the old Dutch masters are on display, use smells to let visitors more holistically experience the past. These are the new techniques and approaches to art that we want to introduce to New Zealand audiences."

"Olfactory art is all the rage in the United States of America and Japan, and let's have a sniff at it in Aotearoa as well," van der Boon explains.

In New Zealand, a few artists and scientists are exploring the field. One of the few artists working in Olfactory art is Raewyn Turner. Raewyn and her artistic partner Brian Harris work predominantly in Aotearoa but have received recognition for their ground-breaking and innovative work, especially in Europe and the United States of America.

Other artists who will participate with Raewyn and Brian are Caro Verbeek, Claudia De Vos and Frank Bloem. Caro has worked on the smells of the Battlefield of Waterloo and an 18th-century canal house to make those scents come alive again.

"Frank was commissioned to undertake a project through the 'Embassea of the North Sea.’ Most Dutch immigrants will have fond childhood memories of trips to the Noordzee and its popular holiday places. We want to bring that intense nostalgia back here. The 'Big Dutch Day Out' in April brings thousands of 'Dutchies' to Foxton, and they will love it," says van der Boon.

Mayor Bernie Wanden says,"Art isn't always accessible to everyone. Often, visually impaired people are excluded. This Olfactory art exhibition is making art inclusive to all, including sight-impaired people and people with other disabilities like synaesthesia. Whether you're an art lover, a rose lover, someone loving scents, or just curious, bring your friends and whānau and experience art as you've never done before."

Smells like Roses – Rozengeur exhibition
1 April to 27 May and 5 June to 2 July 2023
Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom
Māpuna Kabinet Art Gallery
92 Main Street, Foxton.

Free entry. Open daily.
Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm
Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm

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