Jean-Claude Ellena is one of the most important and influential artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In his 43 years of career, not only has he created landmark masterpieces in perfumery, but he has also changed the state-of-the-art multiple times. He pushed the medium of scent to take forms, convey meanings, and express ideas no other artist had ever accomplished before, and he remains arguably unequaled in the variety of aesthetic schools that he both pioneered and mastered.
Ellena was the special guest of Pitti Fragranze with the first major retrospective exhibition dedicated to him, curated by Chandler Burr, perfume critic and ambassador of Pitti Fragranze.
The olfactory masterpieces of his career and a series of images that trace the life of the master were at the center of an experiential installation inside the Stazione Leopolda. On this special occasion, there was also a conversation / interview moderated by Chandler Burr, to tell the ineffable history of his perfumes, and the presentation of his latest, unmistakable creation, Rose & Cuir for Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle.
“This first ever retrospective of Ellena’s career from 1976 to 2019 presents 15 of the artist’s most important works” said the curator Chandler Burr. “Some are important because they established the art medium firmly within entire aesthetic schools: Bulgari Eau de Thé Vert (1993) was the first great work of Minimalism in scent; L’Eau d’Hiver (2003) is one of the most influential works of Abstract Expressionism in perfumery”.
“Taken as a whole, however, the works that span these four decades recount an extraordinary evolution in the artist, one he continues. Ellena has had a lifelong chameleon-like ability to self-reinvent, to not merely experiment with new aesthetic approaches but to develop and create new compositional techniques and structures. Ellena executed his first widely recognized work, First (1976), in classic early 20th-century Romantic style, then after creating that great work of Minimalism he did In Love Again (1998), a masterpiece of neon Fauvism. Angélique Sous La Pluie (2002) is Photorealism. With Kelly Calèche (2007), Ellena experimented in Post-Realist terms. In these works are both the pathway of an artist and the story of a life”.