Perfumes for the Gauguin & Polynesia Exhibit at SAM

Gauguin Woman with Flower

Art & Perfume

On Saturday, I went to Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise at the Seattle Art Museum. Being that it was Saturday, the exhibit was busy and crowded. It appears that the Saturday SAM crowd has great tastes in perfume. I smelled a few Odins, Malle Lipstick Rose and Serge Lutens Datura Noir. Our Barney’s must be busy. I’m happy that I’m not the only person that thinks about how a perfume should “work” with an exhibit. SAM needs to hire me as a scent curator because it looks like their crowd cares about that.

Gauguin Two Tahitian Women 1899

No photographs were allowed within this exhibit. But, let me tell you, the paintings were bright, tropical and filled with soft-porn nudes. The exhibit highlights Gauguin’s works while he lived in Polynesia. Polynesian sculptures and art are also within this exhibit.

Gauguin was obviously inspired by the smells of the islands. He worked on his project, Noa Noa, which means Fragrance. His memoirs often mention the smells. The paintings are filled with flowers, tropical plants, fruits and beautiful women. The colors are bold, bright resembling the colors of lush greens and luscious blossoms. Gauguin was conveying paradise through his paintings. My guess was that he wanted to make his French friends jealous.

Gauguin Riders on the Beach

Inspired by the exhibit, here is my list of perfumes that would work within the atmosphere of any of the Gauguin Polynesian pieces:

Gauguin Polynesia inspired perfumes

1. Kai Perfume Oil – This is one of those tropical gardenias that I can wear because of its greenness. The cucumber in it adds a “lightness” or a “sheerness”. It’s a simple scent that will remind you of a Tahitian paradise even if you have never been to Tahiti. The perfume oil retails for $48 at Beautyhabit.

2. Lucy B. Pink Frangipani EDP – This is a sweet floral with coconut and frangipani inspired by Oceania. It’s a  good fragrance for the price. It retails for $28 at Beauty.com.

3. Prescriptives Calyx EDT – This fragrance is still wonderful after all those years. Calyx wears as fresh, fruity and green. It’s like foraging for fruits in a warm, tropical, abundant oasis. It’s almost like the Garden of Eden. This fragrance reminds me of the bold, acid green used in many of Gauguin’s paintings. The 1.7 oz spray retails for $52 and is available at Ulta.

4. Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise EDP – This fragrance is a lush, tropical paradise. It’s one of the best done “fantasy” scents ever in my opinion. It’s green with dewy blossoms over warm woods. It reminds me of the colorful, but more muted Gauguin paintings like “Riders on the Beach” above. The 1.7 oz retails for $57 at Ulta.

5. Yosh Ginger Ciao EDP – This is the scent that I wore to the exhibit and I think it was a great choice. The scent works with the tropical inspired paintings. There is something a little “primitive” or raw about this fragrance and that’s why I love it. Ginger Ciao is filled with heady  white florals, a coconuty fig with greens. It smells voluptuous, daring and beautiful. The 1.7 oz retails for $110 at B-Glowing.

6. Annick Goutal Songes EDT – This is a creamy white floral with ylang-ylang, gardenia and jasmine sambac. The sun-kissed vanilla-sandalwood base is amazing. It’s such a warm, sensual fragrance. The 3.4 oz retails for $120 at Nordstrom.

7. Huitieme Art Manguier Métisse EDP – This is a creamy mango lassi with frangipani that wears so “naturally” on the skin. The 1.7 bottle retails for $125 at the Perfume Shoppe. Here’s my review.

8. Chantecaille Tiare EDP – This is a very well done green gardenia with enough creaminess to make it even more tropical. I call it the “honeymoon” scent since so many people smell it and say things like “This reminds me of my honeymoon in Fiji” and then I get jealous. My honeymoon was in New Orleans and the streets smelled of garbage and piss. The 2.6 oz retails for $175 at Nordstrom.

9.  Ormonde Jayne Frangipani EDP – This is a gorgeous sunny floral with a tart opening and glistening heart. If this scent was a color, it’d be yellow and I think Gauguin would approve of that. The 1.7 oz EDP retails for $126 at Ormonde Jayne. Here’s my review.

10. By Kilian Liaisons Dangereuses EDP – If white florals aren’t your thing but you want something Gauguin-esque, then try Liaisons Dangereuses. This is a jammy coconut fruitful with rose and vanilla. It’s amorous. The 1.7 oz retails for $225 at Luckyscent.

11. Serge Lutens Datura Noir EDP – Somebody was wearing this when I was there. And I was impressed. Datura Noir was a perfect choice for the exhibit. The fruity white florals over a soft, powdery coconut and tonka say “tropical sophistication”. The 1.7 oz EDP retails for $120 at Beautyhabit.

If you had to curate perfumes for a Gauguin + Polynesia exhibit, what would you include?

Paintings by Gauguin, “Woman with Flower” 1891, “Two Tahitian Women” 1899, “Riders on the Beach” 1902. All from Wikipedia. Post contains a few affiliate links.

21 thoughts on “Perfumes for the Gauguin & Polynesia Exhibit at SAM

  1. I don’t mean to make you jealous, but I honeymooned in Tahiti and Bora Bora. It is the most stunningly beautiful place on earth as far as I’m concerned. Like, wake up everyday and think you must be in a movie, beautiful. Anyway, I would choose Ormonde Jayne Tiare, because I think she uses a Tahition Tiare extract, one of the few natural “gardenia” extract perfumes. I would also choose a monoi oil, since that was beside the tub in every hotel. And finally something with vanilla because while you are sunbathing, they come around the pool and hand out cold, vanilla-scented towels. Can you think of something fresh and vanilla but not boozy or spicy?

    • I’m jealous but it’s not personal ;) It motivates me to go one day since it truly sounds like paradise!
      I agree with OJ Tiare and I’ll take your first hand account for it.
      Vanilla scented towels? Wow. I actually described Atelier Vanille Insensee as “vanilla scented towels” in my review before I knew there was such a thing! It’s a sweet vanilla without the boozy, tobacco-ness. It’s seems summery and fresh.

  2. Kai and Datura Noir would be wonderful, I agree. Have you tried Les Nez Manoumalia? Very tropical. I cannot wear it myself, as it has unfortunate implications for me, but quite a few people love it. (No, don’t ask. Really, don’t.)

  3. This post makes me so happy! I can’t really think of anything else better suited than your list! I really love the idea of melding that Fine Arts with fragrance, as I think it’s an art form in its own right.

    Funny story enough: sorta related to “tropical” fragrances and the arts. While at Conservatory, the “better” practice rooms always smelt of mildew, so I carried air freshener in my clarinet bag that smelled tropical-y; so now I have this conditioned response, when I smell something in the vein – I feel I the need to practice.

    • I really wish I could have matched fragrances to certain works, but no pics and this gets the point across.

      I lol’d at your story. I imagine that if you sniffed any of these, you’d feel the need to start practicing like a mad woman.

      • Glad I could make you laugh. I’ve always loved coconut, so that was part of my air-freshener plan…creating a place I would WANT to practice. In the end, it kinda backfired.

        I actually love Liaisons Dangereuses. I think it has just enough coconut in it to make it feel like “me”.

        I have plans to write an entry where I “fragrance” Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” (my favorite piece of art music in all of art-music-dom), which will be quite an undertaking.

        • I think that the coconut in Liaisons Dangereuses is genius.

          It’ll be difficult but worth it. I look forward to reading it!

  4. I immediately knew OJ Frangipani would be on your list. :)

    And I LOVE Liaisons Dangereuseseses.

    but I have to say I don’t know many of the others probably because I’m somewhat white-floral-adverse.

    • I’m not a fan of white florals, but I do like all of these on the list. There’s enough “tiki drink” in them to make me like them. Yeah, I like coconut. If you ever have a chance to sniff AG Songes, you should. I could see you appreciating it.

  5. I love Ginger Ciao! (it’s one of my last year’s holiday treats to myself) I think it fits perfectly with the exhibition (I saw at least two of the pictures you used in your article).

    I think Byredo Pulp, EnVoyage Perfumes Nectars des Îles and Honoré des Prés Love Coconut would also do the job.

    • I didn’t know that I love Ginger Ciao until recently. I got a sample a month ago and have worn it many times.

      Those are all so great! I’d love to get myself a bottle of all 3 of those for summer. Pulp was on my list last summer but our summer felt more like fall, so I never purchased it.

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