Sound, Sight, and Scent in yasiin bey: NEGUS

yasiin bey (American, born 1973). Alämayyähu and yasiin, 2015. © The Third Line

I always try to keep an ear (and a nose) out for works of olfactory art that I can visit in New York. This time, the opportunity has come right to my workplace, in yasiin bey: Negus (November 15 through January 26 at the Brooklyn Museum.

From the Brooklyn Museum website:

“We present the U.S. debut of yasiin bey: Negus, a listening installation of yasiin bey’s latest studio recording, which will not be released in any digital or analog mediums. . . .The latest in a series of international presentations of Negus, the exhibition acknowledges the importance of hip-hop as a fundamental American art form by making the 8-track, 28-minute recording available without the distractions of technology. . . .In addition to Negus, the exhibition includes artworks by Ala Ebtekar, Julie Mehretu, and José Parlá created in collaboration with bey, as well as original music by celebrated pianist by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou.

Negus is presented as an immersive sound installation that can only be experienced in person. The recording is unavailable for purchase via digital or physical platforms. Bey designed the multi-track recording as an installation to encourage people to be fully present while listening to it.”

In fact, the experience is even more immersive than visitors may initially realize…

yasiin bey and his work Pleasant at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo courtesy of Lauren Zelaya (cch1qu1taa)

From a recent interview in HighSnobiety:

There’s also a work by Bey himself. Pleasant, a 60-foot-long textile mural, hand-embroidered with copper thread, celebrates “overlooked historical figures,” such as Henrietta Lacks (the “immortal” woman whose cells have been used in cancer research since her death in 1951) and Nipsey Hussle. It “deals with spirituality and the cosmic situation, and lineage and genealogy within the scientific reality,” Bey says. 

And: this particular work has been scented with a custom-made blend developed for bey by the Fueguia fragrance house. This blend will be applied the textile mural periodically to give it an olfactory dimension.

Yasiin Bey Pleasant.jpg
yasiin bey at the Brooklyn Museum with his work Pleasant. Photo via The Third Line

Thanks to being on-site, I had the opportunity to read a list of notes for this fragrance collaboration. It includes oud, sandalwood, olibanum, hinoki, grapefruit, opopanax, patchouli, ambrette seed, vetiver, tobacco, copaiba, gaiacwood, Himalayan cedar wood, and Kenyan muhuhu.

And I’m looking forward to smelling it inside the installation soon.

(Disclosure/reminder: I’m a staff member at the Brooklyn Museum but I was not involved in the planning for this installation and this is not official PR for it. I’m writing this post independently, out of my long-time interest in the intersections between fragrance and visual art.)

The custom Fueguia fragrance in the Brooklyn Museum Shop

If you’re a fragrance collector and a yasiin bey fan and you have some extra cash on hand this winter, you could even buy some of bey’s bespoke scent for yourself. It’s available in the Brooklyn Museum Shop, as an oil-based scent (8 ml) packaged in a glass stopper-bottle and Fuegia’s signature wooden box. However, it will set you back $450.

From the Fueguia website:

Founded in 2010 in Buenos Aires by Julian Bedel, Fueguia 1833 is a unique concept in the universe of the worldwide perfumery. The source of inspiration is Argentina, the land where Bedel was born and where he spent his childhood. The land being an inexhaustible source of stimuli for creating new fragrances, and the brand being a personal tribute to the history, art, music, and nature that distinguish the vibrant culture of South America.

Another view of the three Fueguia boxes currently on display at the Shop.

Fueguia fragrances are typically expensive, since Bedel works on a small scale and uses botanical essences: many of them run upwards of $300 for a 100 ml bottle. I’m guessing that the NEGUS scent is a very limited edition, hence the even higher price.

If I learn anything new about this collaboration, I’ll update here. If you do purchase a ticket to yasiin bey: NEGUS, let me know what you think of the experience—including this olfactory element!


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