Taking The Opium Express -The Yves Saint Laurent Opium Exhibition in Paris {Scented Paths & Fragrant Addresses} {Guest Contributor}

Odalisk by Seb Janiak © Pauline/The Scented Salamander
I have the great pleasure of introducing our new contributor, Pauline. She is based in Paris, enjoys fragrance but is even more interested in beauty and cultural topics in general and will write on these from time to time. Today, she reports in words and pictures on the current Opium Express exhibition by Yves Saint Laurent in Paris which runs until January 19, 2008.


"Taking the Opium Express" by Pauline, Guest Contributor

To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Yves Saint Laurent's most famous perfume, Opium, an exhibition or “espace ephémère” (lit. ephemeral space) as the French call it was created in the heart of the Marais neighborhood in Paris in order to rediscover this sensual fragrance through an artistic and sensory itinerary, meant to be taken at a leisurely pace. The exhibit proves to be a succession of unforeseen surprises and sensory delights. One is invited along the way to slide open the drawers of a mysterious curios cabinet and discover their exotic contents, sip fragrant tea in the tea room, and even take a relaxing massage. Opium was inspired by Yves Saint Laurent's numerous travels to Morocco, Japan, China, Mongolia, India and Turkey and these multi-cultural sources of inspiration form the theme of the “Opium Express” exhibit.......

 "Yves Saint Laurent by Artus" © Pauline/The Scented Salamander
 Please come visit the exhibit! © Pauline/The Scented Salamander
 Opium candles welcoming the visitor with the effluvia of their warm spices © Pauline/The Scented Salamander
As soon as the visitor enters the space enshrining Opium, she or he is visually and olfactorily taken by sights and smells. Wrapped in the warm smell of Opium which emanates from different clusters of scented candles, the visitor is invited to board onto the Opium Express: each of two recreated train compartments shows a film by video artists that are projected onto the compartment's window. The first one by Roberta Nitsos, "Who is India," is made with pictures of people and places she took in Rajasthan, while the second one by Tanguy Loysance, "Through the window", shows the flaming red and gold hues of a sunset that echoes the signature red and gold colors of the perfume. Enthralling Indian and mystic Sufi melodies soar in the air (among others sung by the famous Pakistani singer of qawwali, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) and transport you further away on this exotic journey.

 A compartment of the Opium Express © Pauline/The Scented Salamander
In an Oriental boudoir-like setting called the "Salle de relaxation" (relaxation room) decorated with the visually striking pictures of a series of photographs called "Odalisks" by famous photographer and film director Seb Janiak, sensualists are invited to lie down on a mat where they will be able to sample the various Opium products (cream, lotion, dry oil, powder, a makeup line entitled Légendes de Chine) and experience a relaxing massage of their hands. Mint tea and rose-perfumed Oriental sweets, loukhoums, are offered for the gourmands in the mezzanine.

 Another of the odalisks by Seb Janiak
View of the Relaxation Room 
 The curios cabinet

The various components of Opium and the various limited editions of masculine and feminine fragrances are on view in a black lacquered curios cabinet, emulating the 18th century European cabinets. Opium contains a blend of mandarin, bergamote, muguet /lily of the valley in the top notes; jasmine, carnation, myrrh in the middle notes, and amber, vanilla, patchouli, and opoponax in the base notes.

  The contents of one of the drawers: a brush, compass,....
 Another drawer reveals the main ingredients used in Opium

The design of the perfume bottle was inspired by the Japanese tiered inro cases, which were carried by men to shelter their small personal belongings. The round opening of the lacquer case symbolizes the Japanese rising sun, as well as allows the fragrance lover to see, in anticipation of the pleasure to wear it, the warm amber-y color of the perfume.


 Opium perfume and makeup


Red Chinese doors 

Some of the comments left in the guest book are: "lovely sensual experience", "Timeless experience, luxury and beauty", "A mix of Zen, perfume, and travels", "A very good marketing operation". I walk away from the exhibition having discovered a preference for the masculine version of Opium (editor's note: see short review of Opium pour Homme by Dusan Z) and its peppery (Sichuan Pepper) and woodsy notes, which I find more to my liking as the scent turns out to be less sweet and rich (capiteux) than the feminine version.

Look out for the new Eau de Toilette by Yves Saint Laurent, which will be available in a limited edition only, from spring until fall 2008! (A new version, which highlights one particular component, appears each spring)

Opium Express, Loft Sévigné, 46 rue de Sévigné, 75003 Paris.
Until 19 January 2008
Free entrance, 10h00-19h00 (except Mondays)

You can also watch a mini video put together by Pauline here.


 "Perfume of dependency" in "Reproduction" by Artus
All photos are © Pauline/The Scented Salamander - Do not reproduce without permission. 


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