Andy Warhol was obsessed with perfumes: here are the perfumes he loved the most

Going back to the beginning of Warhol’s life, the “Revelation” olfactory journey considers that Warhol’s love for perfume, and by extension his appreciation of perfume bottles as works of art, stems from his Catholic faith. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Warhol attended weekly mass with his family at a Byzantine Catholic church, which follows the rites of Eastern Catholicism and therefore involves all of the senses, Murphy says. “The mass was enhanced with candlelight, vocal chanting and rich incense made from plant resins and spices, so it would have been a really special aroma that Warhol regularly felt in his youth,” she explains. As a Catholic herself, Murphy goes on to point out that Catholicism has many paraphernalia associated with religious devotion, such as rosaries, prayer cards, and statues of saints. “Catholics grow up with all these objects that have meaning and symbolism,” she says. “I can fully understand how Warhol’s love of objects, including his collection of perfume bottles, may have been linked to this upbringing.”

Cornelia Guest, Brooke Shields and Warhol at the launch party for Pierre Cardin’s perfume, Maxim’s, at Macy’s in New York, 1985Photo: Getty Images

As for fine fragrances, Murphy posits that Warhol’s first real exposure to perfume was during his art school years at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, where he took a summer job making windows in a local department store named Joseph Horne’s. , which had an extensive perfumery department. His perfume journey continued when he moved to New York after graduation in 1949, where he created perfume-themed window displays at the high-end department store Bonwit Teller, then started illustrating for the big beauty giants. “Early in his career as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s, Warhol created dozens of designs of beauty products for publications like vogue and Harper’s Bazaar— including perfume bottles from many different brands,” says Murphy. “Beyond his commercial work, he also produced numerous drawings and prints depicting perfume bottles and other cosmetic products throughout the 1950s and 1960s, just as he began depicting other items of consumption familiar in his Pop Art.”

It was in the early 1960s that Warhol began to wear perfume regularly and to add to his collection of now legendary personal perfumes (the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, which holds hundreds of Warhol’s possessions, houses a wide variety of his perfumes). “Andy said he would wear one scent for a few months and then move on to another, so that each short period of his life would have its own unique scent association,” Murphy explains. He also once wrote that he loved looking at perfume advertisements in old magazines from the 1930s and 1940s and wondered how perfumes smelled based on their colorful names. “A lot of these names were inspired by faraway places, by royalty, by glamorous nightlife – Opening Night, Princess of Wales, Gardenia of Tahiti, etc.,” she says. “He said, ‘I’m going crazy because I want to feel them all so badly!’ ”

The image may contain: bottle and cosmetics
Image may contain: bottle, cosmetics and perfume

Yves Saint Laurent Opium

Image may contain: bottle, cosmetics and perfume
Image may contain: bottle, cosmetics and perfume

While his preferences were constantly changing, Warhol had favorite scents that he wore more continually. One of his personal favourites? Chanel No. 5. “He definitely thought men as well as women could wear it,” Murphy says. Adopting an asexual approach to perfume even before it was a movement, he also collected perfumes created by its creators in his circle. “Andy often wore Halston’s original perfume for women, and that had a personal association since he and Halston were friends,” she explains, adding that he also owned perfumes from Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent, such as YSL for Men and Studio 54-favorite Opium. Warhol was also fond of French perfumeries like Caron and Guerlain, and according to Warhol’s close friend, photographer Christopher Makos, whenever the artist was in Paris he liked to buy perfumes with elegant bottles and packaging.

Sarah C. Figueiredo