Yoko Ono and Fragrance, Part 1: “One Woman Show”

Yoko-Ono-MoMA-1971

I recently attended the press preview for “Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971” at the Museum of Modern Art. I was preparing to write a short piece about the exhibition as a freelance assignment (see here!), but this visit ended up being pleasure as well as work.

I even picked up a few fragrance references that I’d like to share here. One came in connection with Ono’s 1971 “exhibition” at MoMA, which was actually a work of Conceptual art rather than a literal exhibition.

In December 1971, without MoMA’s knowledge or agreement, Ono had a representative stand outside the museum wearing a sign announcing her latest project:

Yoko Ono One Woman Show sign
Yoko Ono, Instructions for “One Woman Show,” 1971

Ono had reportedly opened a large bottle of flies—“the same volume as yoko’s body”—in MoMA’s central sculpture garden, releasing them and allowing them to disperse throughout the city. The public was invited to track the flies across town and beyond — to join the artist in “the search observation & flight.”

Yoko Ono One Woman Show with bottle
Yoko Ono in the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden, photomontage published in “One Woman Show,” 1971

The whole event was fabricated, of course—it was an elaborate Fluxus prank, as well as a dig at the museum establishment, accompanied by an illustrated publication that faux-documented the project.

The best part—for aromaphiles, at least? The flies, Ono claimed, had been scented with “the same perfume as the one yoko uses” so that they could later be identified.

Yoko Ono One Woman Show Ma Grifft
Ono’s bottle of Carven Ma Griffe Perfume, photographed for “One Woman Show,” 1971

The accompanying book included photographs of Ono’s perfume bottle “before” and “after” the anointing of the flies, so that readers could see how the volume of liquid in the bottle had dipped.

The perfume in question was Carven’s Ma Griffe, which seems like an unexpectedly classic choice for this avant-garde artist.

ma griffe 1960

Ma Griffe (whose name translates as “my claw”) is a bold green chypre fragrance originally launched in 1946 and still very popular in the 1960s. You can read a review of this vintage perfume on my friend Gaia’s blog, The Non-Blonde.

I didn’t expect to stumble upon a fragrance mention in this show, and it made me smile. Sometimes we encounter fellow perfume-lovers in the strangest places.

I’ll be writing another post soon on this topic…stay tuned!

Yoko Ono images from “One Woman Show” via Art Commotion/MOCA. Ma Griffe advertisement (1960) via H-Prints.

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4 thoughts on “Yoko Ono and Fragrance, Part 1: “One Woman Show”

  1. I think I would have some conflicting feelings if I was bombarded with buzzing flies that left trails of perfume in their wake.

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