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If You’re Looking for a Fragrance to Gift, We’d Suggest a Bottle of Chanel No. 5—an Iconic Muse for Artists Celebrating its 100th Anniversary


Over the course of the past year, the French luxury house Chanel has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of its iconic Chanel No. 5. The fragrance was conceived in 1921 by none other than Coco Chanel as “a woman’s perfume with a woman’s scent;” she enlisted the help of perfumer Ernest Beaux, the then go-to perfumer to the Russian Czars, to create it. 

Beaux was known for his complex, otherworldly colognes. It is said that he tried out 80 different versions for Ms. Chanel, who believed that a woman “should wear perfume where she would like to be kissed” and that her fragrance should underscore her independence, autonomy, and strength—things Chanel didn’t feel were emphasized enough in the one-note floral perfumes of the day offered to “respectable women.” (Anything musky or too “exotic” smelling was associated with prostitutes and courtesans.)

After much experimenting, Beaux achieved the right balance by combining a mix of natural scents (including jasmine, ylang ylang, bergamot, orris root, amber, and sandalwood) with synthetic ones (composed of molecules called “aldehydes,” known to exalt and deepen perfumes’ scents) to realize the beloved fragrance. 

Chanel No. 5. Photo courtesy Chanel.

Chanel No. 5. Photo courtesy Chanel.

A century later, Chanel No. 5 is the longest selling luxury perfume on the market. Stats about its mammoth sales figures have long been bandied about amongst industry insiders, who have referred to the perfume as “le monstre” for grounding the French company’s multibillion dollar empire. Reportedly, a bottle of No. 5 is sold every 30 seconds.

The fragrance has also played a significant role in the arts over the years. Its design inspired the work of Andy Warhol, who immortalized its glass flacon in a number of screen-printed tributes in 1985, and its packaging was added to the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in 1959.

Its campaigns have been photographed and filmed by the likes of Richard Avedon, Baz Luhrmann, and Ridley Scott, while fans of the perfume have included some of Hollywood’s leading ladies, with Lauren Hutton, Catherine Deneuve, Nicole Kidman, and Marilyn Monroe among them. Monroe once famously quipped she wore just “five drops” of No. 5 to bed and nothing more. 

A view of Es Devlin's <em>Five Echoes</em> installation during Art Basel Miami Beach at Jungle Plaza in the Miami Design District. Photo: Arturo Holmes/WireImage.

A view of Es Devlin’s Five Echoes installation during Art Basel Miami Beach, at Jungle Plaza in the Miami Design District. Photo: Arturo Holmes/WireImage.

Indeed, the fragrance has inspired the cultural world for many years—and so it is especially fitting that in celebration of its centennial, Chanel commissioned the renowned British artist and stage designer Es Devlin to create a life-size installation inspired by the scent. It debuted at Art Basel Miami Beach earlier this month and will remain on view through December 21.

The labyrinthian Five Echoes brings the artist’s interpretation of the fragrance to life in the Miami Design District’s Jungle Plaza. Devlin sought to “translate the fragrance molecules into a soundscape and a spectrum of light,” according to a statement from the brand, using light, color, and sound as her materials. She also planted 2,000 trees—which she describes as co-authors of the project—in the surrounding area, in the hopes that it will one day grow into a kind of urban forest.

“My hope is that at least five of the trees’ names echo through visitors’ memories when they leave: South Florida Slash Pine, Live Oak, Dahoon Holly, Ylang Ylang, Wax Myrtle,” Devlin said in a recent interview with Dezeen. “Perhaps the first step towards caring enough about other species to save them from extinction is to learn their names.”

It is fitting, too, that ylang ylang echoes through Chanel No. 5—the fragrance will surely remain a classic as Devlin’s trees grow in the years to come.

To shop and learn more about the fragrance, which is priced starting from $138, click here.

 

Previous stories in this series:

Still Shopping for the Art and Fashion Lovers in Your Life? Check Out This Chic Museum Merch (Think The Met x Brother Vellies)

For Travelers, Consider Virgil Abloh-Designed Luggage That Reimagines Louis Vuitton’s Legacy

On the First Day of Artmas, My True Love Gave to Me… a Step-by-Step Guide for Gifting an NFT

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Why U.S. Business Trends Suggest the Pandemic Changed Far Less Than Predicted About the Art Market (and Other Insights)


Every Wednesday morning, Midnight Publishing Group News brings you The Gray Market. The column decodes important stories from the previous week—and offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the art industry in the process.

This week, deciding it’s time to revise our priors…

 

STATUS UPDATE

Between spring and fall 2020, pundits and professionals across industries (including the arts) entertained visions of a future radically restructured by the aftermath of COVID-19. About a year later, however, the trends shaping post-pandemic reality in major U.S. cities are looking an awful lot like the same ones that were already in progress before the coronavirus knocked daily life sideways—a prospect with weighty implications for the arts.

When it came to how high-income countries would function differently, even after the distribution of safe, effective vaccines, I think it’s fair to say that three ideas were taken practically for granted inside the depths of the crisis:

  • Air travel for business and pleasure would require multiple years to recover to pre-pandemic levels, if either one ever managed to fully recover at all. 
  • Remote work would transition from a temporary necessity to an ongoing fixture of the economy for white-collar knowledge workers of all types.
  • Between mass work-from-home and lingering fears about the public-health risks of urban density, premier cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles would permanently lose tens of thousands of residents to a combo of the suburbs, cheaper yet ascendant metros like Austin and Miami, and long-struggling locales ripe for revitalization. 
Passengers seen with the obligatory face masks at the main departure hall in the terminal of Athens International Airport ATH LGAV in Greece. Many countries Greece included reintroduce Coronavirus measures like lockdown, quarantine and travel restrictions. Passengers wearing face masks and gloves, using hand sanitizers as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Greece and Europe closed the borders for people outside of Europe and the Schengen zone for a long time but Greece started lifting the traffic ban since June 2020 to boost the economy, travel and tourism industry resulting higher cases every day and facing a second wave with bigger numbers in contrast with the low cases during the first wave. Arriving passengers in the Greek airports are subject to coronavirus test. The world passenger traffic declined during the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic with the industry struggling to survive. October, 2020 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Passengers at the main departure hall in the terminal of Athens International Airport ATH LGAV in Greece. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Midway through the very next summer, though, this triple threat already appears to be more empty promises than prescient prognosticating. 

Air travel is the simplest vector to assess. The CEO of Delta Airlines announced in the company’s earnings call last week that “domestic leisure travel is fully recovered to 2019 levels,” propelling the company to its first quarterly profit since COVID reached the U.S. While the long-term fate of overall business travel ironically remains up in the air, art-market players started soaring to sell almost immediately after the initial panic settled. U.S.-based art pros have also booked scores of flights for fall’s must-see (and must-network) domestic events too, cementing a post-pandemic travel mentality in much of our industry regardless of whether or not other trades follow suit.  

The other two expected societal pivots—the large-scale demise of in-office work and in-city living—are more complicated to parse, but they mostly appear to be hurtling down the trash chute together in two of the nation’s wealthiest cities. As wealth goes, of course, art follows. Based on how well recent real-estate trends match up with their pre-pandemic priors, then, it would be wise for those in the trade to abandon last year’s conversation about a brave new post-COVID world and prepare for the resurgence of one we thought we were leaving behind. 

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 02: A "for rent" sign posted on the exterior of an apartment building on June 02, 2021 in San Francisco, California. After San Francisco rental prices plummeted during the pandemic shutdown, prices have surged back to pre-pandemic levels. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A “for rent” sign posted on the exterior of an apartment building on June 2, 2021, in San Francisco. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SUSPENDED ANIMATION

It’s been a strange 16 months in commercial and residential real estate. Data on migration patterns before, during, and after the domestic onset of COVID confirm there was measured legitimacy to predictions of an exodus from urban strongholds in the U.S. Just make sure you place a heavy emphasis on “measured.” 

It turns out that out-migration only drained two cities to an outsized and uncharacteristic extent: New York and San Francisco. Just as important, neither the reasons for these select mass departures, nor their duration, look much like what the apocalyptic “end of cities” narrative set us up to believe. 

After analyzing roughly 30 million change-of-address requests processed by the U.S. Postal Service last year, the Upshot crew at the New York Times concluded the following about the nation in mid-April of this year: 

In short, as disruptive as the pandemic has been in nearly every aspect of life, it doesn’t appear to have altered the underlying forces shaping which places are thriving or struggling … [T]he metro areas that gained the most net movers in 2020—or lost the most—are almost entirely the same as those in 2019.”

Eric Willett, the research director of domestic real-estate titan CBRE, said the metrics showed “how dramatically durable these long-term trends are, even in the face of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.” 

So if you were thinking that COVID would redraw the map of wealth in America, making cities that suffered the most into exciting new hubs of cultural patronage and art-market activity, think again. As Willett put it, “In many ways, the fundamentals in the data show that Austin is the next Austin.” 

What happened in New York and San Francisco, then? A separate study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (this time analyzing address changes made on credit reports) found that the two cities’ significant migration losses had less to do with an unusual swell in the number of established residents bailing than it did with an unusual drought in the number of new residents arriving. 

Which makes sense if you think about it. Why uproot yourself to one of the two most expensive cities in America during a year when much of what makes them appealing (restaurants, nightlife, cultural attractions, a wider and better dating pool) won’t even be available to you, especially if you work at a company or study at a school where it was okay to be fully remote? (Also notable but unmentioned, probably because it would have failed to surface in changes to American credit reports: COVID restrictions dramatically slowed immigration to the U.S. from abroad in 2020, and continue to do so today.)

The crucial point here is that delaying an arrival to Gotham or the Bay is not the same thing as aborting the move forever. In fact, the Upshot’s analysts deemed it “likely” that “new hires and young adults who didn’t leave Cleveland or St. Louis for New York or Boston in 2020 [will] do so this coming year.” 

Three months later, their forecast looks prophetic.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Vlad Lapich, with tech startup company Fast, works on his computer on the first day back in the office on March 24, 2021 in San Francisco, California. A limited number of employees at a tech company in San Francisco returned to work in the office as San Francisco and 5 other California counties moved into the orange tier of reopening. The orange tier allows non-essential offices to open at 25% capacity. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An office worker in San Francisco on March 24, 2021. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PRODIGAL SONS AND DAUGHTERS

As of publication time here in New York, much of Wall Street is either already back in the office or arriving imminently. Thousands of employees at Goldman Sachs and Barclays returned to their desks last month. Blackstone recalled all of its fully vaccinated bankers to headquarters afterward. And Morgan Stanley chairman and CEO Jamie Gorman “expects most of his staff to be back by Labor Day” per the Wall Street Journal

A similar scene is playing out in the Bay Area too, as tech workers flood back into San Francisco and Silicon Valley from their pandemic hideaways. Even more than on Wall Street, the data makes plain the turnabout in NorCal.

More cars (and luxury shuttles operated by major tech companies) darted across the Golden Gate Bridge this May than during any month since February 2020, per Kellen Browning in the New York Times Magazine. Recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau and online real-estate marketplace Zillow showed that May 2021 reversed a roughly yearlong downward trend in rental prices in neighborhoods favored by techies. The California Association of Realtors also reported that the median home price in San Francisco has rebounded from a low of $1.58 million in December to hit $1.9 million of late, a figure loftier than before COVID-19 struck.

Those numbers may surprise you, even if you’ve been making a strong effort to stay abreast of the big national picture. As the cofounder of an early-stage, Palo Alto-based investment fund told the Times Magazine, “I think people were pretty noisy about quitting the Bay Area… But they’ve been very quiet in admitting they want to move back.”

However, one constituency not at all caught off guard by this trend are the tech colossi that bet big on a mass reversal of their workforces’ 2020 migration patterns. Google, which will welcome its staff back in September, announced earlier this year it would commit $1 billion to new commercial real estate in California in 2021; the plan is headlined by a pair of new office campuses in Mountain View and more than 7.3 million square feet of office space in nearby San Jose. Twitter, whose workforce returned to the company’s headquarters last week despite CEO Jack Dorsey approving the option to work from home “forever” last spring, will debut major new offices in San Jose and Oakland in 2022. 

In fact, Silicon Valley has become a powerful driver of New York’s back-to-the-office culture too. The industry accounted for approximately 330,000 jobs and over 29 million square feet of office space being leased in the Empire City as of March 2021, per Forbes. Even more remarkable, just four tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Tik Tok) accounted for one-sixth of all NYC office space to enter contract in 2020.

The bottom line is that New York and San Francisco are in the process of re-magnetizing a critical mass of the young money that has made them, respectively, the U.S. art industry’s gravitational center and (still) next great hope. Since this outcome runs counter to so much of what was drilled into us about the alleged “new normal” of 2021 (including by me, I should admit), it’s important for people inside and outside the culture industry to ask…

A visitor to the Sorolla Museum on July 12, 2021. (Photo By Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images)

WHAT DID WE MISS? 

When it comes to staffers’ decisions about when (or whether) to return to New York and greater San Francisco, the above-mentioned major employers in finance and tech obviously placed their thumbs on the scales with their real estate strategies. Veteran bankers are adding more pressure based on their calcified beliefs about the unparalleled value of in-person work. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that ultra-demanding analyst jobs at a behemoth like Goldman are seen as:

a crucial feeder to other areas of finance, with top junior bankers graduating after a couple of years to bigger paydays at private-equity firms and hedge funds. Some of those firms have been hesitant to hire young people who have never worked regularly in an office, Wall Street recruiters say. Like a medical student’s residency in a hospital, the training that junior bankers get in the office is irreplaceable, said Danielle Caston Strazzini, a managing partner and co-founder at private-equity recruiting firm BellCast Partners.

Yet focusing solely on these factors would mean ignoring a crucial variable in the equation. Too often, we anticipate that other people’s choices (especially professional ones) will be determined by a machine-like calculus about costs and benefits. This expectation overlooks that humans are social animals whose emotions frequently outweigh cold logic. 

As the WSJ noted, young bankers working remotely will miss out on expensing black cars home or lavish client dinners out, but even more important may be their lost opportunity to form lasting friendships by fighting alongside their colleagues in the financial trenches. One managing partner compared the analysts’ shared in-office gauntlet to “pledging a fraternity together,” calling the job “a huge part of your social life” in a formative period. I’m reasonably sure the same can be said for many, if not most, of the tech-savvy twentysomethings eager to once again toil away in the Bay, too.

Age and social expectations cut both ways in New York and San Francisco’s migration patterns. In their mid-April analysis, the Upshot team found that the areas of both cities whose residents left in the largest numbers were “richer and more central,” including Tribeca in the former and Pacific Heights in the latter. A huge number of those who called it quits in each also merely moved to suburbs or exurbs that would still allow relatively easy trips back into the urban core. 

This too strikes me as less a product of the pandemic than of the natural progression of life in these metros. By their mid-to-late thirties, large numbers of professionals once thirsty for nonstop nightlife and the fastest possible ascent up the career ladder have reached comfortable positions and pivoted to domestic partnerships and children. City life tends to offer far less to people on the latter side of that divide. It seems like after logging 15 consecutive years of residency here in New York, about 65 percent of the population is required by law to move upstate (whereas in L.A. you are simply required to buy a statement hat).

The numbers support this conclusion. CBRE relayed that “the vast majority of” the 170,000-plus people who left “the vicinity of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland” last year stayed in California. The Upshot charted a slew of municipalities in upstate New York, the Hamptons, and Connecticut that saw their net in-migration rise by between eight percent and 32 percent year over year.

What does it all mean for the U.S. art industry? Probably that the traditional power centers will continue to stretch their legs but otherwise stay put. No surprise, for instance, that Upstate Art Weekend continues to gain power, with more dealers adding northern spaces, and more activations cropping up on an as-valuable basis (such as the New Art Dealers Alliance’s freshly announced collaboration with the Foreland arts complex in Hudson). Just don’t expect to get an announcement about the launch of Frieze Wichita anytime soon.

By no means am I arguing that business in the arts or any other sector is beyond the grasping hands of COVID, either. On Monday, concerns about the Delta variant’s impact on commerce seem to have been largely responsible for pushing the S&P 500 to its steepest one-day dive since May, and London’s “Freedom Day” was tainted by the need for thousands of residents (including, ironically, prime minister Boris Johnson) to isolate due to contact-tracing protocols.

But the long-term trends in U.S. migration have already shown they will withstand the temporary upheaval of the pandemic. Within the art trade, the immunities also kicked in (metaphorically speaking) for domestic air travel long ago. In short, the future is here. It’s just easy to miss because, in so many ways, it’s the spitting image of the past.

 

[The New York Times Magazine | The Upshot]

That’s all for this week. ‘Til next time, remember: one of the strongest forces known to humankind is inertia.

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6 Major Archaeological Discoveries That Suggest Ancient Women Around the World Were Way More Powerful Than You May Believe


We like to think we know what our ancient female forebears were like. Yet a spate of recent discoveries confirms the truth: that we really have no idea.

Clues from ancient texts and archaeological studies can give us a succinct picture of the important roles women have always played (and almost always without applause). So to give them their due, we rounded up a list of the major achievements of ancient women, the original revolutionaries subverting the gender roles we have in place today.

A bronze Archaic Greek figure of a running girl. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A bronze Archaic Greek figure of a running girl. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Bronze statuettes show that Spartan women—also known as “thigh flashers”—were celebrated athletes.

In contrast with the lives of most ancient Greek women, female citizens of Sparta were heavily involved in athletics from childhood, beginning with a state-supervised program that was intended to produce strong mothers of strong warriors.

Around 40 bronze figurines from the Archaic Period depict Spartan women mid-sprint, with their hand lifting the hem of their tunics to expose a firm upper leg, a habit which earned them the nickname “thigh flashers” during the 6th century BC.

The moniker dates back to original accounts describing the women as wearing “loose tunics” while running or wrestling (even against men), and the statuettes deviate from the typical Ancient Greek female form to suggest Spartans idealized women with slender bodies, smaller breasts, and a more muscular build.

Wealthy Roman women could act as benefactors.

While Roman law gave women no legal status, findings suggest that affluent women found ways to exercise influence through investments.

The discovery of a bronze coin in Paestum, Italy, inscribed with the name Mineia marked the rare commemoration of a female citizen in Ancient Rome. Issued in 1st century B.C., details reveal that she sponsored the rebuilding of Paestum’s basilica following the death of her husband, Cocceius Flaccus, a senator and officer under Julius Caesar.

What’s more, a bevy of clay bricks continually being unearthed in the Roman harbor of Portus bear the stamp of Domitia Lucilla Minor, the mother of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. As the owner of clayfields across the empire, Domitia was a crucial player in brick manufacturing, making her an ambitious business woman hardly confined to the home or whims of male family members.

A researcher studying what was previously believed to be the world's oldest figurative art in a Borneo cave. The find has been supplanted by a new discovery in Indonesia. Photo by Pindi Setiawan.

A researcher studying ancient figurative art in a Borneo cave in Indonesia. Photo by Pindi Setiawan.

Ancient women may be responsible for the majority of cave artwork.

Scholars have historically pushed the theory that men etched cave drawings as a means of archiving their past hunts or attempting to bring luck to a future pursuit. But a

study reported in National Geographic analyzing ancient handprints threatens to debunk the longtime assumption that men were responsible for cave paintings, instead indicating that women were behind a staggering 75 percent of the artworks.

Unlike men, women’s index and ring fingers tend to be equal in length. For the analysis, led by archaeologist Dean Snow of Pennsylvania State University, researchers compared finger lengths in hand stencils and handprints taken from eight caves across France and Spain and ranging from 12,000 to 40,000 years old. After running measurements through an algorithm, conclusions determined that three-quarters belonged to women.

A Spanish grave site indicates women may have been Bronze Age political rulers.

A fresh discovery at La Almoloya, a Bronze Age palace located in Southeastern Spain, is shaking up archaeologists’ understanding of women’s roles in El Argar society, suggesting that women were not only considered adults earlier in life than men, but also may have also held political clout.

A two-person grave holding a man and woman was found in the ancient site’s political sector, and was stocked with 29 objects—including, most significantly, a silver diadem—implying a high social status.

The crown in particular piqued researchers’ interests, given that this item has only ever been found buried with women. So the discoveries imply that women were bestowed with items in their grave at an earlier age than their male counterparts.

Excavations at Wilamaya Patjxa. Courtesy Randall Haas.

Excavations at Wilamaya Patjxa. Courtesy Randall Haas.

Ancient women were likely hunter-gatherers.

The 9,000-year-old remains of a teenage girl—affectionately dubbed Wilamaya by the team of researchers—is yet another piece in a growing puzzle of evidence that women participated in hunts alongside men.

Taking her name from the dig site of Wilamaya Patjxa, the ancient teen was buried with an array of tools used for hunting large animals: a projectile, a knife, and other miscellaneous items geared towards processing game.

“The implements were neatly stacked in a small pile right near her hip,” Randall Haas, head of the dig, told Midnight Publishing Group News. “Now we have enough cases that we can be fairly confident” about the existence of women hunters.

Other details support this assertion: an expert rendering of Wilmaya portrays her with a hairstyle matching those seen in rock art of the area.

The Venus of Willendorf and similar ancient sculptures may have represented the ideal female form in the Ice Age.

The hourglass figure may have been en vogue during the Ice Age.

Writing in the journal Obesity, three academics posited that the iconic Venus of Willendorf and related Venus figures were heirlooms passed down from generations in order to convey “ideals in body size for young women”—with some women potentially having even worn them as amulets in hopes of achieving a curvier shape.

The authors also cited the location of glaciers as having a direct impact upon the build of the Venus sculptures, theorizing that the closer the glacier, the more buxom the figure.

As Darwin would have it, the ultimate goal behind a higher fat count was procreation. Due to harsh climates, women in the Ice Age were at risk of compromised pregnancies, and a more voluptuous figure thereby provided a “source of energy during gestation through the weaning of the baby and as well as much needed insulation.”

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