Money and perfume, in their capacity as both material and immaterial substances, have certain similarities. Neither is really tangible; both are volatile substances and in part, symbolically reinterpreted.
Like perfume, money works on the level of relationships, that is, the interactions between people. In the digital era especially, money appears as an omnipresent, material absence; perfume is ethereal, just as present as it is intangible.
However, AERARIUM refers not only to the airily-volatile but also to its opposite: bronze, which is aes in Latin. Because AERARIUM was the name given to the ancient Roman treasury, the AERARIUM POPULI ROMANI. This first recorded tax office stored the so-called movable national property of Rome. The common property was located in the temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum. It is believed to be Rome's second oldest temple.
In Karlsruhe, AERARIUM transforms and occupies one of the structural elements that characterize the building: A vertical window in the entrance area becomes a reflecting, illuminated showcase. Equipped with a large number of perfume bottles, visible from outside and inside, it acquires a sculptural presence. By reflecting the glass objects on the shelves and at the sides, these are multiplied into infinity.
I was stimulated by the fact that both money and perfume are simultaneously visible and invisible, both present and abstract. On the other hand, I find the idea irritating that today's tax office, in the age of digitalization, has so very few visitors.
AERARIUM, therefore, would like to invite people to the tax office for a different purpose, while also dedicating a fragrance to its 600 employees.
The former perfumery, Feinseifenfabrik F. Wolff & Sohn, emerged from a hairdressing business founded in 1829, achieving world fame after 1871. In 1891, it moved from Kaiserstrasse to this building designed by Hermann Walder. Production ceased in 1974. (Text from a plaque on the house wall at Durlacher Strasse 29.)
The company's cosmetic product series Kaloderma was a world success. Some factory buildings are still standing today and have been designated a cultural monument. One of them is the building opposite the tax office–now the police headquarters–which is reflected in the AERARIUM display case.
Not far from Karlsruhe, a special perfume flacon was found in the Black Forest–made of greenish forest glass, it probably dates from the early modern period. The shape of this little bottle, to which special magical powers were attributed, has been used as a model for the flacons now displayed in the showcase at Karlsruhe tax office.
The individual bottles were produced exclusively and in the presence of the artist at Dorotheenhütte in the Black Forest. Each flacon is marked individually. An artistic multiple, inscribed with a unique engraving. The flacons contain AERARIUM, a fragrance composed and produced in collaboration with Andreas Wilhelm, a Zurich perfumer, and can be purchased exclusively at Karlsruhe tax office. It is a very special perfume, which smells like freshly printed banknotes.
AERARIUM is only available here, at Karlsruhe tax office. The tax office appears as a perfumery. People no longer (only) visit to get their tax queries answered, but also to smell and acquire AERARIUM. The tax office is thus given a fragrance that people carry out with them into the city and other interiors.
The price is comprised of the production costs. The money from sales is used to produce a new batch of fragrance-filled glass flacons as soon as enough has been collected. Money is thus always transformed into perfume in an allegorical way. Since only the production costs of the item are calculated, there is no added value. The product does not contribute to capital appreciation. AERARIUM, therefore, poses something of a question about the value and valence of money, goods, luxury and art in a capitalist system.
An advertising campaign uses newspaper ads and posters in the city:
AERARIUM–your tax scent! Exclusively available at Karlsruhe tax office now!
AERARIUM is a work of art by Katharina Hohmann
for the tax office Karlsruhe-Stadt,
Durlacher Allee 29, 76131 Karlsruhe
Fragrance created by Andreas Wilhelm, Zurich
Flacons: Dorotheenhütte, Wolfach.
Commissioned by the Art Committee of the State of Baden-Württemberg