BA, Fine Art, University of California, Berkeley
MA, Fine Art, Central Saint Martins College, London
PhD candidate, SmartLab at University College Dublin, Ireland
Saskia Wilson-Brown was born to a Cuban dad and an English mom in San Francisco. She was raised in the French educational system, and after receiving her Baccalauréat Littéraire in 1996, she went on to receive a BA in Fine Art at U.C. Berkeley, and a Masters in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College, in London.
Saskia moved to Los Angeles and found herself working in commercial and music video art departments, with a team assembled by production designer (and artist) Marcos Lutyens. In this capacity, she worked on set with clients that included Madonna, Travis, Ronan Keating, Marilyn Manson, Master P, and companies like Geico Insurance, PepsiCo., Ford Thunderbird, L'Oreal, and many others.
In 2003, she joined the board and eventually served as festival co-director for Los Angeles’ Silver Lake Film Festival, launching the festival’s visionary new media arm MP4Fest in 2005, in addition to curating many of its film, art and music events.
It was while she was working at the Silver Lake Film Festival that she met Aline Allegra and Ezra Cooperstein, who hired her to head the newly formed filmmaker outreach department at Al Gore’s Current TV. There, she and her team conceived of and spearheaded projects designed to gain new short format documentary content for the network from international filmmakers, while initiating content partnerships with organizations like Tribeca Film Festival, AFI Festival, and Art Basel. At Current, she also participated in the production of Emmy-nominated shows like TV Free Burning Man, for which she was responsible for finding content producers to create short format documentary videos for on-air distribution.
After leaving Current in 2010, she went on to work as an independent producer and a film distribution strategist, while producing events around new models in the arts. These included the Open Video Alliance Filmmaker Summit at Slamdance Film Festival, Lance Weiler’s DIY Days events, and the TEDActive Innovation Lab with (and for) her friend Sarah Shewey.
She also initiated, curated and produced programs such as the bienial art/film extravaganza Ultra Fabulous Beyond Drag with frequent collaborator Austin Young in 2007 and 2009, as well as a screening of historic short Cuban movies called Cuban Revolutionary Film with her father Adolfo Nodal, for Casa Del Tunel in Tijuana in 2010.
In 2009 she conceived of and started a guerilla screening series called Cinema Speakeasy, which she oversaw with her colleague Georgi Goldman in Los Angeles, in frequent collaboration with the Echo Park Film Center.
One of the first of a new crop of guerilla film screenings series designed to support independent film distribution, Cinema Speakeasy served as an inspiration for a number of other micro-cinemas and curated screening series in California and beyond. In 2010, the series expanded to San Francisco, overseen by her colleagues at Current Kate Sullivan, Allison Davis and Fhay Arceo, and in 2011 Cinema Speakeasy began a year-long residency in Palm Springs in partnership with the Ace Hotel.
Further projects and pursuits included programming feature documentaries and serving as a shorts juror for Slamdance Film Festival; serving as an advisor and mentor to start-up events such as the Los Angeles Music Video Festival; serving as film juror, advisor and panelist for organizations ranging from Gen Art to IFP; and consulting for media projects that included The Yes Men, Stephen Gyllenhall's Grassroots, Jamie King's Dark Fibre in India, and Irish movie One Hundred Mornings, directed by Conor Horgan, with Blinder Films and Lance Weiler. Her experience coalesced in a deep commitment to independent practices, open information, and international collaboration in the arts.
To further her mission, she published frequently in WorkBook Project, and Filmmaker Magazine, and spoke at a number of conferences and festivals including Sundance Film Festival, DIY Days, Open Video Conference, Power to the Pixel, and many more. She also served as an industry mentor at SxSW.
In 2012, her interest in unorthodox creative practices led her to form The Institute for Art and Olfaction (IAO), a 501(c)3 non-profit arts organization devoted to experimentation, access and cross-media projects that make use of scent.
As head of the IAO, she has led the organization from an idea to an international presence, and forged relationships with institutions that include NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (Pasadena), Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (St. Louis), the Getty Museum and Getty Villa (Los Angeles), SxSW (Austin), Goethe Institut, Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Natural History Museum (Los Angeles), Huntington Library (Los Angeles), Wallace Collection (London), Watts Gallery (Guildford), the National Media Museum UK (Bradford), Mediamatic (Amsterdam), Marres (Maastricht), Aspen Art Museum (Aspen), Danish Film Institute (Copenhagen) and others.
In 2013 – with the help of a superb team of advisors and friends – she created and launched The Art and Olfaction Awards, an international awards mechanism for independent, artisan and experimental perfumers. Since 2013, the awards have presented a yearly event in cities around the world, including in Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam and Berlin, and have become an arbiter of excellence for independent perfumery and experimental work with scent.
Saskia's oversight has helped the awards evolve from a small event of 80 people to an international extravaganza with submissions from every continent (except Antarctica). The awards are judged anonymously, each submission tracked by a number alone. These mechanisms - designed for fairness - were directly inspired by the submission system designed by Peter Baxter and his colleagues at Slamdance Film Festival.
In her capacity of director of the IAO, she has launched many programs designed to facilitate access and experimentation in the field of perfumery, including the Experimental Scent Summit with Klara Ravat, a TED-talks-style event that showcases new experimental work with scent, Scent Fair LA with Darin Klein that shows independent and artisan perfumers in the context of museums such as Hammer Museum and Craft Contemporary, and Open Source Scent Culture, an ongoing project devoted to information sharing in the perfume industry.
In 2019 and 2020 she served as a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art in London, before Covid called her home to LA, where she successfully transitioned the IAO to an online format with the help of her colleague Minetta Rogers. In 2020, inspired by her friend Andreas Keller, she re-launched the arts exhibition program at the IAO with the IAO Gallery, a space devoted to olfactory art.
In 2021 she initiated the Perfume Library at the IAO, following a donation of just shy of 1,000 perfumes and books from Conor McTeague. The library is currently managed by IAO board member Daniel Krasofski, with the help of Charles Rosenberg, and a team of volunteers. In 2023, she launched Scent Week, a biennial festival exploring the myriad cultures and practices with scent in Los Angeles and beyond.
Saskia's current projects include producing and hosting a radio show and podcast called Perfume on the Radio, while continuing to oversee the educational and programming initiatives at the IAO.
Since 2021, she is pursuing a PhD about the dynamics of power in the contemporary perfume industry at University College Dublin's SmartLab. She is also working on a book, soon to be announced.