Lalique Sunset

Lalique Reinvention

The French house’s collaboration with sculptor of light James Turrell elevates the art of fragrance.

The geometry of Egyptian pyramids and Buddhist stupas. The sun-drenched aura of American ranch country. The made-by-hand craftsmanship of a historic French atelier. These aren’t the ingredients of your average fragrance, but Lalique is no ordinary perfume maker, and James Turrell—the house’s latest visionary collaborator—is no conventional talent.

The pioneering American artist, acclaimed for his large-scale immersive light and space installations, devises experiences that bend human perception.

His most ambitious (and highly anticipated) work is Roden Crater, an immense celestial observatory within a volcanic cinder cone in Arizona’s Painted Desert, a project that has been underway for decades. (Until the monument opens, take in the breadth of Turrell’s genius at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, where a thorough retrospective, Into the Light, will run until May 2025.)

Small-scale art hasn’t been in his oeuvre—until now. But enthusiasts wanting to add a rare Turrell to their personal collection finally have their chance.

Turrell is the newest innovator tapped by Lalique Art, a division of the iconic crystal manufacturer that is devoted to teaming up with contemporary creatives on original pieces. Past contributors include luminaries like Lou Zhenggang, Mario Botta and Damien Hirst, but Turrell is the first artist to design fragrances for the 135-year-old luxury brand.

The two perfumes, four years in the making, were unveiled at Paris+ par Art Basel in the fall: Range Rider (for him) and Purple Sage (for her), captured in distinctive sculptural bottles which grant a gallery-worthy aesthetic to any vanity table.

Range Rider, 2022 (edition of 100), Purple Sage, 2022 (edition of 100)
Range Rider, 2022 (edition of 100), Purple Sage, 2022 (edition of 100)

The keepsake vessels, available in extremely limited editions (only 100 each), take architectural inspiration from pyramids and stupas—structures of “high spiritual value in which light plays an essential role,” as Turrell put it.

That concept translates into modern, geometric vials of tinted Lalique crystal, a luminous showcase for the nectar inside. “They are in fact prisms,” explains Silvio Denz, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Lalique SA.

Sleek and deceptively simple-looking, the shapes proved exceptionally tricky to produce—they’re entirely handmade—but not impossible for the artisans at Lalique’s only atelier, tucked away in the small French village of Wingen-sur-Moder. It’s here that founder René Lalique lit the factory’s first glassworks furnace more than a century ago. The artisanal techniques haven’t changed in all that time, from the shaping of raw materials by fire to the meticulous polishing by hand.

Turrell was so fascinated by the crystal craftsmanship, he felt compelled to spin off a second art concept for Lalique: Crystal Light, a light panel with a trompe-l’oeil design of elliptical rings, which ripple hypnotically with color. Only 42 pieces were made. The light panel is also a nod to one of his most famous works, Aten Reign (2013), the site-specific Skyspace created for the Guggenheim in New York.

But Turrell’s most intriguing move in the Lalique collaboration was his foray into a whole new medium: scent. He gave creative direction to not only the bottle design but also the fragrance itself, working with master perfumer Barbara Zoebelein of Givaudan. And if the bottles reflect his professional preoccupation with light, the scents reveal a more emotional, personal side.

“It’s a very nostalgic project,” recalls Zoebelein. “James wanted, of course, Arizona elements to be reflected.” Specifically, Turrell was beguiled by the notes of purple sage and old rubbed leather—redolent of his homeland, the American West. These were the scents that would cling to his chaps when he and his wife, contemporary artist Kyung-Lim Lee, returned to their ranch after long horseback rides through the desert dreamscape.

Purple Sage with box, 2022 (edition of 100)
Purple Sage with box, 2022 (edition of 100)

The delicate purple sage, which blooms in Arizona, stars in the feminine fragrance of the same name, paired with grapefruit, pink basil and rhubarb. And beyond rugged leather, the masculine fragrance revolves around what Zoebelein calls a “cowboy accord,” a combination that evokes suede, campfire and “the smell of horses when they work.”

For Zoebelein, the his-and-hers perfumes are complementary in construction but also a study in contrasts. “Purple Sage is very fluid and airy. I thought of this very bright, incandescent light in the desert,” she explains. “Range Rider is warmer, a bit more huddled-together, sexier.”

At its best, fragrance has always been a form of art, an invisible alchemy, an ephemeral joy. But now, with these creations by Lalique and Turrell, it’s a beauty to behold, too.

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