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Artist Sissel Tolaas on smells, science x art and personal treasures
TheArtGorgeous & ARTE Generali Team Up For “Treasures”, Part 2
Art Girls Jungle 15 Dec 2020


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A quote that was trending on social media today struck a chord with me, it read – “I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have…” Which lead me to question, what do I appreciate, what do I treasure? Because what I treasure is what makes me – well me….

This very notion of questioning ones treasure to find out more about a person’s individual identity is what inspired us to team up with the ARTE Generali to start a new series of interviews aptly titled Treasures. Within these interviews, we ask leading and inspiring art world women about their career, life and their very own treasures to inspire and educate others.

For this second episode of Treasures, we spoke with the mind-blowing Sissel Tolaas, Berlin-based Norwegian artist and researcher known for her intriguing work with smells. As the upcoming festive season is so closely connected with various smells we treasure since our childhood, how could there be a better fit…

Sissel Tolaas
Sissel Tolaas, shot for Dazed & ConfusedPeter Kaaden

Born in 1963 in Norway, now based in Berlin, Sissel works as a professional “in-betweener,” focusing on smell, language, and communication while spanning science, art, and industry.

Because of her interdisciplinary approach and her commitment to scientific research, she is considered as one of the most innovative artists out there.

Sissel began to concentrate on the language and communication of smell in the 90s, researching its importance in different sciences, fields of art and design, among other disciplines. Her impressive academic background is in chemistry; mathematics, linguistics; languages and art; subjects she studied at prestigious universities in Oslo, Warsaw, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Oxford. Impressive, right?

Sissel Tolaas | SHOWstudio
Image of Sissel via www.showstudio.com/

In her research Sissel sniffs where others fear to tread. ‘When other people start throwing up, that’s when I start to work.’ Her aim with her work? Bringing us together, by bringing us back to our senses. For Sissel, smell is information. She composes provocative smells to stimulate memory, recreate place, capture seasonality, and arouse emotional and intellectual responses. In 2004, with support from International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF), Tolaas founded the SMELL RE_searchLab, a workspace to research, develop, and execute smell-related projects for institutional, educational, and individual clients. To date her innovative research has taken her all over the world, and involved intriguing collaborations, from her ‘celebrity cheese’ project, to working together with Balenciaga to create the smells of blood, antiseptic, petrol and money for their most recent catwalk. She has exhibited in museums such as San Francisco MOMA, the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow and the National Art Museum in Beijing and her research has won recognition through numerous national and international scholarships, honors, and prizes. Future projects include taking part in the upcoming “Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning: 13th Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, slated to run February 26 through May 9, 2021.

About Arte Generali:

Just launching their new art insurance arm, ARTE Generali comes up with a smart offer to help manage our treasures – big and small. It also keeps us in the loop about the value of our collection through innovative tools, such as an app that provides digital remote evaluation. Talking about innovation: ARTE Generali also offers a concierge service so we can stop spending hours with all those art-meets-admin tasks. 

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