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Meet the Artist Behind the BO-Scented Foldout in 'Harper's Bazaar'

If you subscribe to Harper’s Bazaar, and if you enjoy the perfume foldouts, then there is a good chance you’ve smelled the body odor of artist Martynka Wawrzyniak.
May 30, 2014, 5:48pm

If you subscribe to Harper’s Bazaar, and if you enjoy the perfume foldouts, then there is a good chance you’ve smelled the body odor of artist Martynka Wawrzyniak. Along with ads for Salvatore Ferragamo and Lancôme, your May issue contains foldout perfume tabs of the enigmatic “Eau de M”: a fragrance designed to approximate the exact smell of Wawrzyniak’s BO. Art worlders might read it as an affront in the tradition of Lynda Benglis’s double dildo Artforum ad, but Wawrzyniak describes this as more of an ephemeral self-portrait; in 2012, she described smell to VICE as a “spiritual essence."


“There’s an aura of pheromones and smells around us that we emit to form a subconscious communication with other human beings,” she told us then.

Last night, various media and fashion professionals immersed themselves in her aura at the SoHo launch of “Eau de M.” I stood over a table of magazines sniffing scent sticks amid racks of designer clothing by VPL (Visible Panty Line). The area emanated a faint but intoxicating smell. It may be due to the exacting organic diet and health regimen Wawrzyniak holds herself to, but this girl’s BO smells really great.

“I’m picking up sort of a coconutty, fruity scent,” a fellow smeller observed. I picked up watery notes of aloe and pine. It’s definitely more pheromonal-floral than rancid gym sock. The ingredients are all on the perfume foldout:

Eau de M is pure, radiant and seductive. Tropical coconut infused with cacao absolute, fresh grass and sumptuous passionfruit creates a unique and intensely addictive fragrance—wet, sweet and sensual like a hot, humid summer day.

“The analysis of the exact odor… there were a lot of materials that are not available in the perfumist’s palette. So you have to recreate it with lots of pieces from [different elements],” observed perfumist Yann Vasnier of Givaudan. “We tried a musky smell, a milky smell, a sweaty fruity smell. It’s hard to recreate the exact molecules of her body.” Vasnier and scent director Dawn Goldworm of 12.29 collaborated with Wawrzyniak on the fragrance, after she spent two years working with Hunter College to harvest her sweat from her Bikram yoga T-shirts. “I think we were able to extract about 5 mils in total,” said a biochemistry student who’d spent a summer on the project. Based on her analysis, the scent is about “as close as they could have gotten.”


He also collected the bottled essence of Wawrzyniak’s tears, which she’d produced by crying while watching films from her childhood in communist Poland.

The odor is an extension of Wawrzyniak’s ongoing project to build an aromatic essence of “essential oil," composed of tears, sweat, and hair, which was experienced in 2012’s Smell Me at envoy enterprises.

"Just from a medical background, scent is processed differently from sight and sound,” he observed. “You filter those senses, but scent doesn't work like that. It’s more emotional.”

Wawrzyniak at last night's event

After he learned more about contemporary art, Wawrzyniak’s benefactor began to think that Eau de M was a piece that needed to be dispersed. “This isn’t a showpiece,” he told me. “This is an interesting, and important, piece, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that I needed to make this thing happen.”

Apparently, Harper’s Bazaar thought so too.

“Harper’s knew about the project, and they were excited. They think it’s wonderful.”

“Barney’s has been calling,” Wawrzyniak told me. “People have been asking where they can get it; they can’t find anything like it anywhere else.”

So this year, keep an eye out for Eau de M at Barney’s. But for the time being, you’ll have to hit the newsstands.

Whitney Kimball is an NYC-based art critic currently on staff at the blog Art F City.