Picture-Perfect Beauty

Art museums, and the fine artists whose work appears in those institutions, have increasingly been forging licensing and collaboration deals in the beauty category—especially in fragrances—resulting in creative interpretations of key works of art, not just on packaging but in the formulation of the scents and color palettes themselves. Products range from exceedingly limited and costly to more accessible, albeit often still on the higher end of the luxury scale. Some examples:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has been a leader in this space. Initiatives have ranged from its partnership last fall with J. Hannah for a collection of three nail polish colors inspired by a 1597 portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, to a collaboration with Pat McGrath Labs back in 2018 for a limited-edition color cosmetics collection inspired by its exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. The Met signed a sponsorship agreement with K-beauty brand Sulwhasoo last month, but no product collaborations have been mentioned yet as part of that year-long deal. Beanstalk represents the museum for licensing.
  • Maison Matisse, headed by the painter Henri Matisse’s great-grandson Jean-Matthieu Matisse, collaborated with Guerlain this January for a collection of scents inspired by two of the artist’s paintings, which often feature plants, flowers, and other sensory elements. The Bee Bottle Maison Matisse Edition, limited to 14 pieces, is inspired by the 1939 work La Musique, while Jasmin Bonheur, inspired by Les Mille et Une Nuits, is a bright scent in a colorful bottle, produced in an edition of 1,000.
  • James Terrell, a fine artist considered one of the founders of the California Light and Space Movement of the 1960s, paired in fall 2022 with Lalique for a limited edition of two scents and bottles. Turrell is credited with developing the scents as well as designing the crystal bottles for the two products, a men’s fragrance called Range Rider and a women’s called Purple Sage. Each is a limited edition of 100. For this extreme-luxury product, treated as a work of art itself, both scents come in a wooden box, with Purple Sage available for $25,000 and Range Rider for $30,500. René Lalique was known as the sculptor of light, creating a natural connection between the two partners.
  • Architect Frank Gehry, who has designed a number of museums as well as creating many sculptures and drawings, has paired with Louis Vuitton since 2021 for a range of fragrance bottles as part of the Louis Vuitton Les Extraits Collection. Gehry and Vuitton were already linked, because Gehry was the architect of the building housing the Fondation Louis Vuitton. The most recent fragrance bottle release is a numbered limited edition of just 40 units made of Murano glass, in collaboration with Murano glass master Simone Cenedese.
  • The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam licensed Floral Street in 2021, marking its first collaboration in the beauty category. The first scent released as part of the four-year deal, Sunflower Pop, was a vegan and cruelty-free luxury eau de parfum inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, 1889, and the packaging and bottle featured a reproduction of the painting.
  • The Louvre and Officine Universelle Buly 1803 worked together on a line of fragrances in 2019, with each of eight scents tied to a famous piece of art in the museum. Featured works ranged from sculptures including the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace to paintings including Fragonard’s controversial The Lock and Gainsborough’s Conversation in a Park. The scents were created by eight different perfumers, who selected the pieces with which they wanted to work. The scents were sold in a pop-up shop throughout the second half of 2019.

The examples mentioned here do not represent a comprehensive list of all of the fine artist- and museum-connected beauty collaborations that have been introduced in recent years. Frida Kahlo alone, for example, has had a global presence in the beauty sector with Ulta Beauty, Anisa International, Misscha, Suavecita, and Girlcut, among others.

In a related trend, several deals for museum- and fine artist-licensed home fragrances have also come to light. Earlier this month, The Met paired with scent company Pura for six home fragrances, each tied to different areas of the museum, including the Astor Chinese Garden Court, the Greek Galleries, and the Temple of Dendur. It also has partnered with Harlem Candle Co. and Le Labo on home fragrances. The Maison Matisse deal mentioned above also included a scented candle, in an edition of 500, while the Van Gogh agreement similarly encompassed scented home products as well as personal fragrances.

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