An artwork from Luiza Gottschalk’s exhibition, “Glade: To Touch Painting,” at Olfactory Art Keller. (Photo: Andreas Keller)
An artwork from Luiza Gottschalk’s exhibition, “Glade: To Touch Painting,” at Olfactory Art Keller. (Photo: Andreas Keller)

In Manhattan’s Chinatown, a Gallery Invites Visitors to Sniff Its Art

Olfactory Art Keller presents experimental exhibitions featuring projects made by artists who work with scent, and perfumers who create art.
By Iris McCloughan
April 8, 2022
3 minute read

Tucked between a seafood market and a dumpling shop in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a small storefront showcases a suite of expressionist oil paintings. Appreciated from the street, the pieces hover elegantly between representation and abstraction, their brushstrokes both cohering into and resisting recognizable forms. But these swirls of shapes and colors are only part of the works. For the complete experience, you must enter the space, touch the paintings, bring your nose to their surfaces, and inhale. This is how viewers are encouraged to engage with the art in “Glade: To Touch Painting” (through April 30), an exhibition of scented paintings by Brazilian artist Luiza Gottschalk, currently on view at the gallery Olfactory Art Keller.

The gallery was founded early last year by Andreas Keller, a scent scholar with Ph.D.s in genetics and philosophy who has led courses on smell for philosophy students at The City College of New York, and for architecture students at Columbia University. “I wanted to provide a space where the differences between seeing and smelling—the area of my academic interest—can be experienced, explored, and experimented with,” Keller says of the gallery. In practice, this has meant both presenting projects in which artists use odors (like Gottschalk), and those in which perfumers create art.

In its first year of existence, the space has hosted a range of fragrant exhibitions. Some, such as multisensory artist Josely Carvalho’s “Supsensio: An Interruption in Time,” combined various smells with sculpture in an installation that reflected the political, environmental, and social turmoil of the moment. Others, such as “New York/New Fumes,” presented experimental scents, many housed in original, artist-designed containers. There were also shows that mixed smell with interactive elements, as in conceptual artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter’s “Scents of Exile,” an affecting, ongoing art project in which refugees’ scent memories of the homes they had left were incorporated into hand sanitizer for viewers to use and smell.

The gallery’s fascinating programming continues this spring. First, the space will host “Odoratus Auris” (April 22–24), a live sound-and-scent performance by multidisciplinary artist Doreen Ooi. Then, in June, visitors can participate in a plant giveaway organized by interdisciplinary artist Gayil Nalls. The season will culminate on July 7, with the opening of a show of new, to-be-announced work by Los Angeles–based olfactory artist and perfumer Maxwell Williams. Taken together, the events unfurling at Olfactory Art Keller reimagine the gallery-going experience. Though small in square footage, the space plays an outsize role in expanding audiences’ understanding of new sensory frontiers in art.