How do we assign value to art? Is the value of a piece changed by the value of who offers an opinion on it?
Lush’s Gorilla Perfumes Tank Battle set out to tell a story of how a famous artist’s words imparted value to an outsider’s art. The art itself was the same before, during and after this event. What interested me in this story was that the perfume Tank Battle experienced the same transformation.
Tank Battle was inspired by the battle of Tachowa Covington to keep his home, a literal water tank. Mr. Covington had been living in an abandoned water tank above a Los Angeles highway for seven years, after arduously cleaning the rust inside and painting it. The exterior of the tank was an industrial piece of oversized scrap, left to crumble into the hillside. Dirty, overgrown and difficult to access, no one would have noticed it … until they went inside. Mr. Covington spent his seven years creating a lived-in art installation, packed with found objects plastered together into a bohemian masterpiece. Paintings, sketches and lyrics covered the walls. Every available space was something Mr. Covington had created. He might still be living there, but once he invited enough people and their cameras inside, the eyes of the local government fell upon him. The tank would have to go, living there violated all manner of bylaws, and Mr. Covington would have to leave. As Mr. Covington was not a man of means or influence, there seemed no way to halt the inevitable. Mr. Covington’s art was considered to have no real value and was irrelevant to those seeking the removal of the tank. And then everything changed. The famous and mysterious artist Banksy noticed the tank and decided to use the exterior as a canvas. “This looks like an elephant”, he wrote on the tank, simple words, boldly printed. Banksy’s fame and the monetary value of his works meant removing the tank needed to be discussed. There was a reprieve for a time, but eventually the tank was taken intact to be sold, valued for its exterior alone. The interior art was hauled away under duress by Mr. Covington, moved to a cave, a shed and eventually a tent to be damaged and lost by the weather.
* * *
Lush first launched their perfumes in 2003. They have their own lore and history and many devoted followers. There are perfume people who began their lifelong love of scent with Lush, moving from the soaps to the fragrances and then out into the world of perfume. But for many people Lush is a messy, adolescent looking shop and Lush’s perfumes are not on their radar. Lush, the soap people? If the perfumes smell like the shop, they must be terrible! Tank Battle was not on my radar until the eminent Luca Turin raved about it in Perfumes, The Guide, giving it 4 stars. And suddenly there it was, a remarkable scent. Mr. Turin opined over “the idea of pure brilliance” of combining geosomin and labdanum. And suddenly Tank Battle is being discussed not as a cheap indie scent you might enjoy but as an excellent fragrance.
This is a lot of waffle for a perfume review with not a single mention of what the perfume smells like. It really is quite unique. There’s a not too sweet bubblegum vapour that infuses it, incense, a bit of motor oil and fresh earth. It’s delicious and fantastical! If you were disappointed in Etat de Libre Orange‘s Encens et Bubblegum, this one might fill that need you didn’t know you had until you read the words “Encens et Bubblegum”. It’s a better blended, more vivid scent, and the drydown is very comforting. I would call it an incense gourmand, taking its place next to so many delicious vanillas that play with darker themes. If you’d like to read more about the fate of Tachowa Covington and his tank, this article will fill you in.
Tank Battle (2016)
Labdanum, Patchouli, Clove
These are the only notes given, I think a small sniff will show otherwise!
Image: my own (Photo taken in Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia, famous for its graffiti and found art. Here a googly eye discarded beer can cheer up the winter day.)
Hi Narthscent, are you still in Melbourne? I’m over in Adelaide and I’m sorry the borders are all closing again. However, in real life I’m from Texas and it makes the stuff going on in Melbourne look like a walk in the park. Not the lockdowns, Melbourne is handling that a lot more seriously, but the actual numbers of sick.
I actually went to the Lush debut of this perfume and display in Dallas 3 or so years ago, and they had several perfumes created and displayed with art installations to explore, “What is home?” Then the Dallas homeless choir which is directed by this marvelous man sang that Miley Cyrus song I had never cared for until this moment, It’s the Climb. It was the most moving, heart rending exhibit I’ve ever seen, just a week before Thanksgiving, which is all about the comforts of home, right? I saw the tank with the Banksy words, and a recreation of what the inside looked like. I did smell Tank, but I was smelling so many perfumes that day that none made a clear memory. I had no idea that Luca Turin had reviewed it so glowingly. I walked away with a real appreciation for LUSH, both for the creativity shown and also for the humanitarian aspects of it, bringing a huge US problem — homelessness — to attention. I forgot to add, it was set in a dilapidated building on the outskirts of downtown where a lot of homeless people lived on the streets, so it gave its message both inside and out. Thanks for reviving a good memory.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes I am still in Melbourne, in lockdown starting tonight. No more visiting family, no more restaurants.. we were here some weeks ago already and now we’re returned. It’s hard and sad, but yes many places have it far worse. Thanks SO much for your great Lush story! I would love to go to one of their art/gallery spaces, I often read about the varying installations they do in the UK. This sounds like an amazing experience. Perfume IS art and I love to see it brought together like that, we are used to art and music combined but being out there with Perfume as well is INSPIRING. They do seem to embrace scent and activism, art, ideas quite naturally at Lush, it’s a joy.
And Cynthia3403 as you are in Aus I’m happy to send you some Tank Battle as well!. Not sure if you can pm on wordpress but if you would like some let me know and we’ll figure it out :)
Hello Narth, and thank you so much for this review. I haven’t tried this one. I love Lush’s approach, even their messy soaps.
LikeLiked by 1 person
It’s a refreshing approach, especially after wandering about in the at times elitist presentation of high end perfume. It’s FUN .
Exactly. Perfume can get too serious sometimes.
LikeLiked by 1 person
This review reminds me of the early blog posts where art, literature, politics, film and dance would get referenced. I would be madly scrambling to read links, google the info and buy the books.
It makes me so sad that a man’s castle was stolen from him and destroyed. Imagine the psychological damage that would incur. I go bonkers when I move or sell a house. Losing your beloved creation and safety zone, crushing.
Perfume sounds good too.
I still love Rose Jam shower gel for bubble baths and their frags have often punched well above their price range.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I love the Rose Jam perfume, it’s quite addictive. I would love to send you some Tank Battle, I have a BIG bottle. Let me know when you are receiving samples again :D
And yes, it’s a wrenching read and an all too familiar story for the homeless. They have another perfume named after a quote from Tachowa in which he says he’s “not homeless, just rentless.” The perfume, Rentless, is a nice patchouli as I recall. I found it quite gutting to realize read his story and see the hierarchy of value so violently on display.
Rose Jam is the only Lush perfume that I tried.
Here in Poland we don’t have Lush shops so the fragrances aren’t that accessible.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Still not interested in this brand’s perfumes, but thoroughly enjoyed the story. And I think it’s a perfect picture to illustrate the review.
Great post Narth. I really enjoyed the backdrop you painted for us about the story behind the perfume name. I fell a little enlightened. I feel a little like you’ve taken one for the team by smelling this and reporting on it. It doesn’t sound appealing to me but I love that’s it’s out there and being enjoyed by someone.
I think it’s a fun scent, especially if you lean towards gourmand. Some will smell the earthy elements more than others. On me it’s quite sugarred. Drydown is so charming.