Of Andy Warhol, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Three : Washington DC


The seemingly endless curve of the circular exterior wall of the Hirshhorn Museum is broken here and there with radial partitions, creating segment-like rooms that conceal surprises.

Entering one such space I find myself face to face with the grand master of Pop Art, a floating torso against a black void rendered in brilliant white and lurid pink paint Andy Warhol appears a dark angel of death.

Staring into his grey eyes it is impossible to put aside thoughts of his technicolor on steroid screen prints of icons from Queen Elizabeth to Elizabeth Taylor by way of Liza Minelli and David Bowie.

Equally, images of his notorious electric chair and car crash series invade the consciousness.

But what perfume would the world’s shyest egomaniac wear?

Of course Bond No 9 have asserted their retrospective right to him releasing a whole range of fragrances alluding to his life, his work, his NYC, none of which, despite their likability, alights on the spirit or the sensibility of the man.

Parfums Andy Warhol too for all their blunt use of their namesake’s most famous works as product packaging, miss the point.

After all Andy preferred to turn packaging into art not vice versa.

So I will choose instead a fragrance I have read filled the air at Studio 54, the New York club that I always feel, after the Factory, to be the master’s natural habitat.

Halston for Woman as was: it goes by different names today and has been endlessly diluted and the composition occasionally disturbed.

Yet in every variation from the genius of the original to the bordering on generic of the contemporary, this is the most bone dry of floral chypres ever to have donned a gold lamme jump suit and stack heals to grace an underlit dancefloor.

Are we still in Washington? Is that Bianca Jagger on a horse?

Perspex discs arranged in improbable suspensions and Sol le Witt’s over bright disco light wall-sized paintings only serve to add to the night club vibe.


I am sure if music had started to play like Pavlov’s discotheque dog I would have begun to sway rythmically and to worry about last dances, looking cool and getting all my apparel back at the coat check.

As we leave the Hirshhorn, the stuff of coat check dreams appears…


How I wish I could have taken home from any club of any sort at any time Yayoi Kusama‘s bronzed, rose embroidered manteau, rather than my own affair, no matter how dapper it might have been.

It’s meticulous craftsmanship and eloquent opulence call for a powerfully elegant and self-possessed perfume to go with it.

The baroque intensity of Chanel’s Coco tempts for a moment, then Serge Luten’s Sa Majeste la rose seems perfect.

But reflecting on Kusama’s troubled existence, an uncalm rose seems the only thing, and the medieval splendour of Paco Rabanne’s la Nuit the only one that could possibly do this warrior of the heart’s armour justice.

The National Botanical Gardens

IMG_20130621_221923 (1)

Outside the air has warmed to an improbable early afternoon high of near ninety degrees.

Of course the logical thing would have been to seek out air conditioning and art once again, but mad dogs and Welsh men go out in the midday sun and so we amble on to the most unlooked for treasure of our trip.

Tucked away in a corner at The Capitol Hill end of The National Mall, The National Botanical Garden is a diminutive delight both inside and out its ornamental glasshouses.

Here plants unfamiliar and familiar-looking but with new and unfamiliar names jostle for our attention in a ready made riot of colours and non-colours.


Who knew grey petals could be so beautiful?


One plot of botanical beauties has me rhapsodising once again on space travel, for surely they cannot be of this world…


Their elongated alien forms exploding here and there into fronds and antenna-like extrusions are the stuff of science fiction fantasy, and yet they sit here quite happily before me bustling up against one another in the breeze in their busy bed.

Immediately Norell by Norell comes to mind.

A now nearly lost vision of the future from a point some point in the middle part of the last century, it is the perfect scent to accompany these tiny Trifids, who sadly have no smell to call their own.

Its hyperspace hyacinth, bright green nettle-like laser beam heart and nuclear charged pepper fired carnation are just perfect for these Star Trek saplings.

Looking above the flowers and into the distance, the most unusual of all the domes that surmount this city comes into sight.


Like a parliament of an ancient nation or world, the organic form of the angle avoiding National Museum of the American Indian is as inviting and enveloping as a mother’s arms.

Walking towards the sunshine the smell of woodsmoke is on my mind.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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18 responses to “Of Andy Warhol, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Three : Washington DC

  1. Lilybelle

    How wonderful! What amazing forms, both natural and man made. LOVE the rose coat! I love the grey petals (hydrangea?). I love the strange star strek stalks. I was at the botanical gardens here today and saw giant asters called Stokes Asters. They were beautiful. I think I read on the blog Muse in Wooden Shoes that Andy Warhol collected perfumes – discontinued ones from earlier eras. I can totally see that.

    • Dearest Lily
      The rose coat is just another example of the extreme and incredible imagination of Yayoi Kusama. This elderly Japanese artist has gained a huge profile in the UK in recent years, wrapping avenues of trees along the South Bank in coloured paper and liking them with ribbons, transforming a mass of galleries at Tate Modern with a huge show and even taking over the windows at Selfridge’s with a series of installations!
      Spots are very much her thing at the moment.
      The petals were indeed hydrangea and a slightly purple dove grey that was incredibly delicate.
      I adore asters, though they never reach the scale in this country that they do in North America, so I am imagining your giant variety with child-like awe!
      As for Andy, yes, I have read that self same thing, that he had a huge collection and toyed with creating a perfume range for many years. Oh that one of the major houses had taken him up at the time it really could have been quite something.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Lilybelle

    Yayoi Kusama’s work sounds truly awesome. La Nuit seems perfect for that. Yes, I imagine an Andy Warhol perfume range would have been something!

    • Dearest Lily
      I often fantasise about what perfumes various artists would, or, indeed might still curate if they were to launch perfume collections….
      Imagine scents selected by Mark Rothko, Whistler, Miro or even Michelangelo. Indeed I am still waiting for the perennial Yoko Ono to finally release a signature aroma whilst other prime candidates would be Barbara Kruger, Cundy Sherman and the painter of that amazing Warhol portrait Julian Schnabel.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. Dear Mr Dandy

    This is the only kind of travelogue I ever want to read: one that deals with vivid imagery, pop culture and the lavish sensualities of scent. Each photograph is remarkable, the writing is as vivid and erudite as ever. It is infused with both glamour and melancholy, since many of the colourful main players have since passed on. It was an era worth remembering.

    You have also persuaded me to give Halston another chance. Since an ugly encounter with Halston Catalyst, I decided to no longer associate with Halston, but maybe the brand can worm its way back into my affections.

    I wonder what Studio 54 would smell of were it still with us today? What would be the most hedonistic smell in the world?

    Your friend

    • Dearest Iscent
      Thank you so much for such a generous comment.
      The original Halston, rather like the remarkable Norell, is subject unfortunately to the law of diminishing returns… the newer the bottle less splendid the scent. Though even in its current somewhat etiolated edition I still think it worth a spray.
      And as to Studio 54? It smells sensationally of greasepaint now having returned to its original incarnation as a theatre (it was built as the Gallo Opera House).
      It is the home of the admirable Roundabout Theatre who rescued from demolition with its world famous production of, what else, ‘Cabaret’ back in the 1990s and now have it as their permanent home.
      Having once housed The Johnny Carson Show, if walls could talk, surely these would be amongst the most erudite of all raconteurs…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. rosestrang

    Really inspiring Sir T.P.D.! Beautiful photography too. I’m so envious! – America has produced some incredible artists hasn’t it? My favourites are probably the abstract expressionists, but I also really like Yayoi Kusama, that coat is fabulous – Sa Majeste la Rose is ideal (such a BIG rose, I couldn’t handle it!) , or maybe Portrait of a Lady (I always think it’s inappropriately named as it’s quite wild really, amazing perfume). Warhol I struggle with to some extent – striking images, so inventive, but also cynical. I’d see him in a somewhat spare, acidic perfume – I’ve never tried Halston but a bone dry floral chypre sounds spot on – no slushy romanticism!

    I’ve got a thing about American artist Alex Katz’s landscape paintings/prints, they’re deceptively simple, wish I could paint like that, another decade maybe. Here’s a link http://www.alexkatz.com/print_archive I always think there’s something quintessentially American about them.

    Looking forward to more of your American instalments!

    • Dearest Rose
      The Dandy too has a rather large ‘thing’ for the abstract expressionists and I had to resist the temptation to fill my pages here with endless images of the amazing Barnett Newmans and Clifford Stills that the Hirshhorn has in inspiring abundance.
      Ah, Portrait of a Lady… strange you should mention that, that perfume of Henry James-ian proportions may well be making an appearance here very soon!
      As for Andy, yes, The Dandy is always left conflicted about Andy. So talented and yet so ultimately so cold, uncaring and as you say cynical. Every artist may have a splinter of ice in their hear my Warhol’s soul seems to have been home to an iceberg.
      On a happier note, aren’t Alex Katz pictures delightful. I can’t an almost Gary Hume does nature note about some of them (all to the good) and in others echoes of Patrick Caulfield and even Matisse.
      Thank you so much for the introduction.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  5. I know I shouldn’t comment before coffee… but, “an uncalm rose” seems to be the essence of art… And now I’ll take mine with lots of milk and sugar 😉

  6. Reading your travel posts are pure visual and olfactory champagne for the brain, Dandy! Thank you! And yes…that coat! Surely, the very word is far too short for such a sartorial statement? 😉

    • Dearest Tarlesio
      Thank you so much for the kind words… though I do hope that my scribblings don’t have the same long term effect that a great aunt warned my the fizz has…’fun now, but rots the brain in the end’!!
      And yes we need a better word in English for even overcoat is too brief to describe such a thing of beauty.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. Stunning. And the photos suck me in like an engorged dream.

    • Dearest Ginza
      Thank you sir!
      If only the originals and not merely the photographs were The Dandy’s own!
      Washington did pass in something like a dream… a reverie perhaps would be more precise.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

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