Thursday 26 November 2015

Fragonard's NEW Musée du Parfum

There are some beautiful buildings around the world which have been lost to development, and once they're gone they cannot be put back. However, there is one perfume company that seems to be actively scooping these up, restoring, renovating and then breathing new life into them. I am of course talking about Fragonard. Originally launched in Grasse in 1926, it became the first true "tourist perfumer" and catered to the growing demand for "leisurely pursuits" around the Côte d'Azur. Outgrowing the surrounding area, Fragonard set its sights on Paris, restoring an 1860 townhouse by Lesoufaché and the old Théâtre des Capucines. Both now house sections of the vast Fragonard Collection, have retail space to sell the products, but neither gave a full explanation of the process of perfume making. So, what was next in their sights?

Close to the Paris Opera House stands some of the most beautiful architecture, but a lot of it has been hidden for many years. As tastes change facades are covered, entrances moved or, as in the case of Fragonard's latest property, locked away for generations. In 2014 it was announced that Fragonard had acquired 3-5 Square de l’Opéra-Louis Jouvet and were about to start a mammoth restoration project. The building had a chequered history. Originally the Eden Theatre in the eighteenth century, and later a velodrome, the premises were eventually taken over by the English furniture manufacturer Maple & Co in 1896. They would remain there for one hundred and eighteen years until finally closing in April 2014.

The space that was left behind however was perfect for Fragonard’s architect François Muracciole. With period detail throughout, and a velodrome to work around, it was bound to be an exciting project for the company. It was to be named the Musée du Parfum, and would take the visitor on a tour of the world of the perfumer. Work was completed in September 2015 and the results are beautiful. The upstairs is devoted to the retail space, but downstairs is where the discovery happens. There are two very definite sections to the museum, the process of creation and the finished article. The latter is very easy for Fragonard to achieve because of their vast collection of period items, but even so, some of the exhibits are breathtaking.

You get to see the process of fragrance creation by the combining of video footage, which shows the various extraction methods, along with a great selection of copper alambics, which are displayed around the old elevated velodrome track. As well as the usual maps, jars, and ingredients, you also have the Perfumer’s Organ which is filled with various bottles of oils, absolutes, and tinctures. Normally out of the reach of visitors, here you are encouraged to test your nose by smelling a selection of them … but don’t be foolish enough to go too near the civet.

It’s a really enjoyable experience, very well presented, and even if you're already very knowledgable on perfume I would still advise you to go for the unbelievable surroundings. Fragonard have once again shown their talent for repurposing unwanted spaces, and it makes you wonder what will be next?

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