Turning perfume into a work of art: the Dubai artist behind Mona Kattan’s new painting

Anna McKeown's creative images are brightening up some of the most famous of homes

If you’ve ever marvelled at a perfume bottle on your dresser and thought about how its look is unique – a work of art, almost – then you would probably appreciate Anna McKeown’s work.

The artist, who lives in Dubai, is creating a name for herself in the niche field of perfume art – that is, depicting famous fragrance bottles on canvas. Each piece comes with her trademark drips and abstract style.

The final artwork makes for a chic, colourful addition to a home or public space. Add to that the fact the bottles are often customised, featuring a client’s initials and other personalised elements, and they suddenly become haute gift options, too.

As an artist, it’s important to create work that people want to buy because it shows that it’s popular, and you’re also able to invest in yourself

“Living in Dubai definitely played a role in the subject matter,” says McKeown, when asked what led her to this niche field. “As an expat, I was thinking about recreating on canvas things that people commonly gave as gifts, something that could also be customised.”

It all started with a painting of Tom Ford’s Fabulous perfume bottle, a personal favourite that she believes sends a bold statement when hung up. And things only grew from there. “People soon started asking me to create bottles that had meaning to them,” she says.

Besides selling prints, McKeown also takes commissions, for which she goes the extra mile. “I usually ask the person to show me the room they’re putting the painting in. I can match the colours to suit the interiors of the home, change things around in the painting. It’s like a journey I’m having with my clients.”

McKeown moved to the UAE eight years ago, working as an art school teacher. Over the years, she has worked in a number of educational institutions in the region, teaching everyone from preschoolers to adults, but it was only last year that she decided to dedicate herself, full-time, to her art.

Anna McKeown was recently commissioned to create a painting of a Kayali perfume bottle by Huda Kattan. Courtesy Anna Anna McKeown
Anna McKeown was recently commissioned to create a painting of a Kayali perfume bottle by Huda Kattan. Courtesy Anna Anna McKeown

And that dedication is paying off, too. Since deciding to pursue her passion wholeheartedly, she has amassed several famous clients. Irish model Vogue Williams recently commissioned two paintings to give to her husband, British TV personality Spencer Matthews, as a gift, created in his favourite colours.

McKeown’s latest painting is of a bottle of Kayali perfume. The piece was commissioned by beauty mogul Huda Kattan as a birthday gift for her sister Mona, who founded the Kayali brand. “It was great to work for such a famous and amazing brand,” says the artist.

“It’s been a dream for me, really. I used to teach my students to always do their best and have a career that they really want, and this is something I have always wanted to do. I’ve always had that desire to have my own business and sell my own art. As an artist, it’s important to create work that people want to buy because it shows that it’s popular, and you’re also able to invest in yourself.”

McKeown takes into account the room when designing the artwork. 
McKeown takes into account the room the artwork will be placed in when designing a piece.

With last year being a relatively quiet one, owing to the pandemic, McKeown says she was lucky to have a studio at home where she was able to spend more time painting. This extended period indoors offered another surprising benefit, too.

“There were a lot of people sitting at home thinking about how they wanted to change it or do it up, so business was pretty good. There was a dip, initially, but people were definitely investing more in their interiors overall.”

Her pieces range between Dh750 and Dh25,000, and McKeown hopes the price points make her art accessible to all. It’s also for this reason that while she may be known for her bottle canvases, she has decided to branch out.

“People have been asking me to draw all kinds of things, not just bottles, but other items, many of which are a part of the lifestyle accredited to Dubai,” she says.

That means customised paintings of watches and cars, in her abstract style are all proving popular. She also recreates people’s wedding photographs, painted and styled up as if they were on the front cover of a fashion magazine. “People love it,” she says.

Taking her perfume art up a notch, McKeown is now drawing on the bottles using acrylic paint and a layer of gloss. These customised pieces are then placed within a glass case, and make for another whimsical gift.

We’re going to be seeing a lot more of McKeown’s chic designs in the months to come. She was recently chosen as one of five artists to collaborate with Dubai company Stretch ME, creating custom wallpaper designs, so the bold colours of her creations could soon be splashed across walls in the region.

They could be anything, prints of lipsticks or shoes to mix things up,” she says. “It doesn’t even have to be just bottles. I’m quite excited.”

Published: June 2, 2021 09:04 AM


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