With her fresh approach to fragrance, Icelandic visual artist Andrea Maack has set a new standard. What started out as conceptual art has in only a few years turned into a high-end perfume brand, available in the world’s fines stores. And she’s only just begun.
Published in the 2012 June-July issue of Iceland Review – IR 02.12. By Ásta Andrésdóttir. Photos by Páll Kjartansson and courtesy of Spark Design Space. Artwork by Andrea Maack.
Tall and slender, with porcelain skin and bright red lips, Andrea Maack greets me at her company’s headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, overlooking the city’s busiest shopping street. The white walls are lined with Andrea’s own striking graphics; on tabletops lie neatly ordered perfume bottles, magic markers, flowers, books and magazines. In here, it smells absolutely divine.
“Since signing with major Italian perfume distributor Intertrade Europe last September, it’s been a whirlwind; a lot of work,” she says as we take a seat at her desk. “Since then, my partner Gísli has managed the company and my friend and long time collaborator Ingibjörg Agnes Jónsdóttir has been appointed head of design. We’ve been travelling all over Italy and the United States, hosting press meetings and events in stores as well as within the art scene. Intertrade now oversees our global distribution and the production has moved to Italy. This deal allows us to focus freely on the design and development of the concept. The world of niche perfume is fascinating; we’re enjoying it all very much.”
A 2005 graduate of the Iceland Academy of the Arts with a degree in visual arts, Andrea‘s path to success in the world of high-end perfumes is unusual to say the least. “As a visual artist I am interested in fashion and beauty and that’s how it all began,” she explains. “Preparing for an art exhibition in the 2008 Reykjavík Arts Festival, I got the idea to make a perfume. I had already started working with the concept of wearable art, for example making dresses from paper I had drawn on. Before becoming an artist, I had worked in the London fashion industry and was even enrolled in a fashion design program. But I just had this gut feeling that I should come home and study art instead. However, as soon as I started my artistic career I couldn’t ignore this old passion of mine,” she says. “I named it SMART, which is an abbreviation for Smell Art. I only had four bottles made for the fake perfume launch, which of course was really an artistic installation. Guests got to take home a piece of a drawing I had made, which had inspired the fragrance. I played the hostess and sprayed the scent onto their piece of drawing or their skin. During the run of the show, the gallery owner allowed guests to try it and soon people were asking where they could purchase it. Then there was no turning back. Especially since I had come up with such an innovative way to create it.”
What Andrea had done was send her handmade drawing, along with sketches of the gallery space, to a French perfume designer who then interpreted it as a scent. This process has since become her trademark. “Even if I like to cross into the worlds of fashion and beauty, I still remain true to my artistic side – my drawings are the basis for everything I do.”
You can read the remainder of this article in the 2012 June-July issue of Iceland Review – IR 02.12. Four times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country's majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.