Esxence 2019

May you live in Interesting Times

– If it were possible, I’d like to get inside you. Inside you while you’re painting me. And look at me with your eyes. That way, maybe I’d manage to understand myself more thoroughly. And you too, professor, you’d also manage to understand me better. […]

But, you know, in some cases that’s something that is really frightening.


– What? Understanding yourself better?


– Yes. In a nutshell: the fact that you have to involve someone else if you want to understand yourself better. […] That’s the reason why we need paintings.


– Precisely. That’s the exact reason why.

Just like we need literature, music… that kind of thing. 

                                                                                                                       (Murakami Haruki)


We need art. We need beauty, poetry and emotion. We are human beings and it is emotions and feelings that keep us alive.

We need art. In every shape and form, including its olfactory expression. An expression that is corporeal, primordial and emotional.


Esxence is the place where the world celebrates this art, an event that grows more and more with every passing year.The numbers of visitors are growing, as are those of applications from potential exhibitors and those of appointments with leading authoritative experts in perfumery and sensory perception, while the best journalists specialising in the art of perfumery experience new scents and write about them, creating articles, reviews and inspiration.

Our community is also growing, both real and virtual, as links and exchanges and flourish.

Esxence is growing, so much so that its physical space is bursting at the seams…

Every year, the city is increasingly caught up in the perfumed slipstream that emanates from the scents on show during the event, as the Milano Fragrance Week brings olfactory culture into contact with the other arts. Courageous visionaries support us and lend their talent to our cause to discovering the world with a nose in the air.


When you are busy growing, it is hard to stop and think.

But now that the dates for the 2020 edition have just been announced, this is the right time to do so.

Esxence is the rendezvous for artistic perfumery, which may be a niche sector,but is nevertheless one with such an unquestionable commercial value that it is attracting more and more investors all the time and, with them, the major multinationals.It is a sector that could be described as the alchemist’s workshop where free ideas come to life, poised to influence the entire market for perfumery and beauty.


Fragrances set free. Perfumery and art. Is it still so hard for these words to live together?

When people ask me what Esxence is, I tell them that it’s the world’s most important international artistic perfumery event. The next question they most frequently ask me is è “But what’s artistic perfumery?”.

To which I respond: “It is the moment when art communicates through our sense of smell”.

I am talking about an artistic idiom, on a par with painting, sculpture, music or the cinema.

But what maybe comes across as the thorniest issue in this definition is not so much perfume, which we know to be a composition of notes, of natural or synthetic raw materials that together create more or less harmonious symphonies that we may love or hate, remember forever or forget tomorrow. Maybe the issue is that definition of art.


I have just come back from the Venice Art Biennale, where I visited the exhibition curated by Ralph Rugoff with a title that sounds like a fantastic opportunity: May you live in Interesting Times. May you use art to tackle these times of permanent revolution. May art be a guide to make these times as interesting as possible.


Art expresses a possibility. And the works on show in this year’s Biennale do so with both grace and force. They get to grips with social issues, with passionate and conflicting feelings, but the common ground shared by the artists is not so much the issues themselves, as their ability to approach them unconventionally, enticing visitors to lay themselves open to infinite possible conclusions and to consider unfamiliar opinions. The artist provides no answers, but suggests starting points for reconsidering ourselves and our world.

As Paolo Baratta, President of the Biennale, explains, when members of the public enter the exhibition, they become ‘visitors’, progress to the status of ‘observers’ and experience an effect of disorientation when faced with the works, which then leads them to ask questions, feel curiosity and ultimately make discoveries and experience a sense of wonder.


And these works are not solely visual.

Visitors can have an intensely poetic experience from the sound landscape of For, in your tongue, I cannot fit by Shilpa Gupta: a symphony of voices that sing the verses of a hundred imprisoned poets.

They can walk rocking to and fro on the carpets in the French pavilion in the Biennale Gardens, where Laure Prouvost has created an oneiric space that is liquid and tentacular.

They can travel at breakneck speed in the Philippines pavilion, where Mark Justiniani has reconstructed the archipelago while investigating the role played by sight in how we construct reality.

They can breathe places in by sensing the warm scent of the lather in the installation in the Saudi Arabian pavilion by Zahra Al Ghamdi.


These are a variety of sensory registers with one sole purpose: to shed light on new vantage points of reality, to create new possibilities for interpreting our times and understand what they can offer us to understand ourselves in our interactions with these ceaseless transformations.


In this world of possibilities, artistic perfumery is fully entitled to be called art. It creates open-ended works, narratives that only users can complete, with their own perception, their own skin:


“The author ultimately offers the user an open-ended work: he does not know exactly how the work may be completed, but he does know that the work, once completed, will still be his work, not another, and that at the end of the interpretative dialogue a form will have come about that will be his form, even though it may be organised by someone else in a way that he could not have foreseen completely, since he has substantially proposed a range of possibilities…” (U. Eco, The Open Work)


Esxence has a task: the keep the artistic spirit of perfumery aliveand, in so doing, to act as a catalyst for the market, enabling brands and activists in the field to come together. But for the duration of the exhibition event, its laboratories, meetings and workshops are also an opportunity for olfactory culture to burst out of its confines and show itself to the public at large.

The aim is not to convert Esxence into a magnet for tourists, but to guarantee an open, free, engaging offer that encourages people to ask questions, get involved and rethink their own feelings, how they consider art and how they use it. So that visitors who have no inkling about this market may one day aspire to have an artistic fragrance of their own, just as they might already aspire to own a painting or a photograph.


Artists, brands, journalists, students, critics and experts all come together with the public in an open dialogue. And that principle of openness means allowing things to be seen from different vantage points.

“The best way to improve our understanding is to involve someone else.”

That is why we need paintings, music and perfumes: that is why we need art.




-Murakami Haruki, L’assasinio del Commendatore

-U.Eco, Operta Aperta

-Paolo Baratta e Ralph Rugoff, intervento di apertura BIENNALE ARTE 2019


by Beatrice Balzarotti – master’s degree in Anthropology & Ethnology. She studies the forms of communication in their cultural framework, with a sensorial and emotional perspective.