I´m staying true to my promise of introspection (and also filling in for Patty whilst she suns herself in warmer climes) by writing about one of my favourite Bond No. 9 concoctions, Andy Warhol Silver Factory.
I am not what you would call an art aficionado by any stretch; I consider my greatest piece of framed art (besides my diplomas) to be the poster of Elton John´s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album. I´ve carried that LP with me everywhere since I moved out of my parents house, and finally took the plunge and had the poster framed last year during my short stay in the DC area. It’s not quite a Warhol or a Picasso, but it is the original poster from the record album I bought when I was all of 8 years old. Yes, I´ve been an Elton John fan since the tender age of 5, when my brother used to make me sing “Crocodile Rock” into his tape recorder.
I do love to wind my way through museums, gazing at paintings of just about anything, and checking out knick-knacks and treasures from centuries past. My biggest artistic epiphany came in the Sistine Chapel, risking permanent nerve damage to my neck from staring up at Michelangelo´s breathtaking ceiling. I still want to kick myself for the utter cluelessness that doomed my trip to Paris from London on a Tuesday, sans the pertinent factoid that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. That was over 5 years ago and I still cringe when I think about it. I will get back there one day even if I have to fly naked and handcuffed in order to satisfy whatever security regulations will be in place when I finally get around to boarding an airplane again.
I´ve never been very knowledgeable about Andy Warhol save for looking at pictures of him, Halston and Bianca Jagger on Page 6 of the New York Post, as they sailed past the fabled velvet rope into Studio 54. I didn´t understand why he always had such a vacant expression, and his shock of white hair was startling to my 11 year-old eyes. I had no idea that he painted pictures of soup cans and flowers in a studio called The Factory. The name Edie Sedgwick meant nothing to me, and the only time I ever picked up a paint brush was every other week in grade school, usually to paint something that I thought resembled the shade of the Tiffany lamp that resided in my parents´ living room. I was not a prodigy by any means.
Years later, I watched the film Factory Girl in rapt fascination. If the depictions of Warhol and Sedgwick, his poor-little-rich-girl muse played by Sienna Miller, were anything close to reality, then Mr. Warhol belied his vacant facial expression with the narcissism and vapidity of the quintessentially tortured artist. Again, I´m no art critic, and I think I´m experiencing a bit of adult-onset rebelliousness, so please pardon my judgement. Maybe one day I´ll have a different take on the soup cans, the flowers, and the psychedelic portraiture, but right now I´ve got nothing. I even pored over the Andy Warhol Foundation website, and the site for his museum in Pittsburgh, and I´m still a bit, shall we say, unimpressed. I´m guessing that anyone from the art world who might read this won´t be flooding my e-mail with job offers.
As for Silver Factory the fragrance, I´ve got lots to say. First of all, it is one of the best scents Bond has ever done; it cemented my love of incense and woods, and even gave me a newfound appreciation for the austere beauty of iris and violet. Silver Factory was an artistic revelation of a different sort for me, even if the actual scent has little to do with its namesake other than its moniker. It has been written that Andy Warhol was buried with a bottle of Estee Lauder Beautiful, so he was obviously a fan of feminine floral scents. Silver Factory is not especially feminine, and the iris and violet woven through the composition give the scent a metallic quality; though not in a cold way. The incense and woods are tempered with a slight sweetness, but not so much that it overwhelms the rest of the notes. It is haunting and beautiful, the way the most beautiful incense scents are, but I also like to think of it as interesting. It doesn´t smell like anything you would find in a department store, even though Bond is sold in some high-end department stores. Silver Factory is a scent that needs to be in the collection of every fragrance lover who counts incense among his or her favourite notes.
I feel as if I´ve stumbled inarticulately through this essay, because when you talk about an artist and something that was inspired by his life and work, the opinions about the artist and the object in question become even more subjective. What would Andy Warhol have thought about this scent? What was it about Warhol and/or his work that the perfumer used as inspiration? How would Warhol feel about the critiquing of a fragrance just as one would critique the kind of art he created?
I´ve reached for Silver Factory so many times over the course of the past couple of years to try and write something about it, but I could never get it quite right. I still don´t think I´ve done it justice, but having made the attempt, I appreciate it even more than I used to. I can now add the following to my list of “what ifs”: What if Andy Warhol was still alive to bear witness to the current trends in art, fashion and fragrance? What would he think of all the celebrity scents that are being churned out in such copious numbers? Finally, what would he think of Bond No. 9´s interpretations of what he is best known for: his flowers, shoes, soup cans and workspaces have all been used as inspirations for fragrances. I used to think that “Success is a job in New York”; I never knew Andy Warhol was the man behind those words.