It is a long story, and it starts with Donald Urquhart, whose "distinctive ink drawings, featuring figures such as Judy Garland, George Best and Elizabeth Taylor, satirically subvert historical and pop-cultural motifs" (via nonstarvingartists.com). Mr. Urquhart has been shortlisted for Beck's Futures 2005, one of the UK's most generous art awards.
Mr. Urquhart's exhibit, titled "Another Graveyard", will explore themes of death and bereavement, and will include a fragrance dispersed into the air by an automatic atomizer:
The 41-year-old artist named the fragrance he created, Darnley, after Mary Queen of Scots' flamboyant husband, Lord Darnley. This fictitious cologne would have been popular among gay men in Edinburgh in the 1930s, Urquhart says. "It would have been a fragrance so particular as to be instantly identifiable. A whiff of Darnley on Princes Street would have alerted those in the know that there was another homosexual nearby. It's a communication method, a sort of secret code."
To create the fragrance he wanted, Urquhart worked with Christopher Sheldrake, the nose behind many of of the perfumes in the Serge Lutens line. Urquhart...
...wanted something reminiscent of Scotland, so heather, shortbread, whisky and peat were put into the mix. The perfume also needed to evoke an old gentleman's club. Cue leather, tobacco, polish, snuff and tweed. The result smells splendid. Like something Quentin Crisp might have dabbed on while wearing a lavender silk scarf.
You can read the rest of the article in the London Independent, or you can read more about the Beck's Futures Exhibition on the Institute of Contemporary Arts website (direct link no longer working, sorry). Better yet, if you are in London, you can go to the exhibit between March 18 and May 15, and then come back here and tell us what it smells like.