Makeup Museum ideas for now and the future

As I did back in January of 2016, I feel the need to discuss some ideas I've had rattling about in my head for quite some time.  I could basically copy and paste from that post since I didn't make any progress, but perhaps 2020 is the year I actually start tackling some of the bigger Museum projects I've wanted to pursue for so long.  Or not.  I'm not putting pressure on myself, especially since, as I've noted countless times, the necessary resources - research materials, time and money - are lacking.  The point of this post is to simply get down some ideas so that they can temporarily stop taking up so much room in my head and to possibly start prioritizing them. 

First, let's talk exhibitions. Four years ago I had ideas for 15 of them.  The number hasn't changed, although the topics for some of them have.  Here's what I'm thinking about, along with working titles.  I'll reiterate the disclaimer I had with the Stila girls exhibition:  if/when these are completed, they won't be executed anywhere near how I envisioned, but they will be something to start with.

  1. "Black and Blue:  A History of Punk Makeup" - A subject so near and dear to my heart deserves a solo show.
  2. "Catch the Light:  A History of Glitter Makeup and Beauty" - I think this would be perfect for a holiday exhibition.
  3. "The Medium is the Message:  Makeup as Art" - This will trace how makeup is marketed and conceived of as literal art.  Consider it a comprehensive discussion of this post.
  4. "Wanderlust:  Travel-Inspired Beauty" -  I cannot for the life of me believe how many travel-inspired makeup collections there are.  This exhibition would examine those and discuss the idea of makeup intended for travel.  Who wants to see some vintage train cases?
  5. "Design is a Good Idea:  Innovations in Cosmetics Design and Packaging" -  I'm hoping this would be co-curated with two fashion/design scholars that I met on Instagram.
  6. "Taking Flight:  Makeup as Metamorphosis" -  I'm still a little fuzzy on the details, but I know I want to have a whole section of makeup packaging featuring winged creatures (butterflies, fairies, etc.) and makeup looks inspired by them.  Anchoring the exhibition would be an emphasis on the transformative nature of makeup.
  7. "Gilded Splendor:  A History of Gold Makeup" - Another good holiday exhibition topic. 
  8. "Ancient Allure: Egypt-Inspired Makeup and Beauty" -  While I like this topic, it's necessary to be mindful of the rampant cultural appropriation.
  9. "Just Desserts:  Sweet Tooth Revisited" - Like a rich dessert, this topic is too good not to have another bite of.  I might also expand it to include non-dessert food-themed beauty, and maybe this very talented writer could co-curate with me.
  10. "Aliengelic:  Pat McGrath Retrospective" - Oh, how I'd love to do an exhibition devoted to Pat McGrath, with a stunning catalogue that would double as a coffee table book.  Alternate title instead of Aliengelic:  "The Mother of Modern Makeup".
  11. "By Any Other Name:  The Rose in Makeup and Beauty" - I pitched this idea to the FIT Museum as a small add-on to their upcoming "Ravishing" exhibition.  They weren't interested but I might just do it anyway. 
  12. "From Male Polish to Guyliner:  A History of Men's Makeup" - this will be huge.  Various writers have discussed it previously, but I want to go really in-depth with it.
  13. "She's All That:  Beauty in the '90s" - This is also the subject of the book on '90s beauty I've been wanting to write since at least 2014.  Not a great message in the film She's All That, but I would hope the premise of the exhibition/book will explain why I chose it as a title.  Or I might rework it to something totally different, I don't know.  And while I know I'll run into the same problems I did with trying to launch this exhibition previously, I figured I need to start somewhere.
  14. "From Mods and Hippies to Supervixens and Grrrls:  '60s and '90s Makeup in Dialogue" - In my opinion, cultural developments in both the late '60s and mid-1990s radically changed the beauty industry and gave birth to new ideas about how people view and wear makeup. 
  15. The last one is rather interesting in that it's the first exhibition topic suggested to me by an independent curator.  I don't want to reveal too much since we haven't really talked through it, but I can say it would be incredibly out of the box and involve '80s makeup. 

The husband made a super duper handy graphic of my exhibition ideas. 

Makeup Museum upcoming exhibitions

And now for all the other ideas that I'm going to try to get through on the website in 2020.  Here's another graphic to help wrap my head around what topics I want to tackle this year.  As you can see it gives the general categories and the number of articles in each category.

Makeup Museum upcoming topics list

Some details:

MM Musings (3):  Several huge topics, including the definition of a museum, inclusive museums, and an exploration of the process of a private collection going public.

Makeup as Muse (3):  the next artists on my list are Sylvie Fleury, Rachel Lachowitz and Gina Beavers.

MM Mailbag (2-3):  Too many inquiries to list!  I'm still only at about 50% "solved" rate...good thing I'm not a real detective.  But there were some really interesting questions in the past year or so, including ones about the history of Corn Silk powder and a travel set by Madam C.J. Walker.

Brief histories (4): zodiac-themed beauty, crystal-inspired beauty, makeup setting sprays, and how drag makeup techniques became mainstream and/or co-opted.  Possibly something on colored mascara.

Trends (1):  Makeup brand merchandise and swag.

Topics to revisit (3):  faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, cultural appropriation in cosmetics advertising.

Vintage (5):  Feature on Revlon Futurama lipstick cases, research on a series of Dorothy Gray ads featuring portraits of well-to-do "society" ladies, a roundup of ads depicting women looking at their reflections (sort of a follow-up to my lipstick mirror post), a comparison of Benefit's Glamourette and Platé's Trio-ette compacts, and a history of face powder applicators.

Artist collabs (5):  Only 5 so far but I'm sure there will be more!  Currently I'm trying to catch up on some of last year's releases, including Brecht Evens for Mikimoto, Connor Tingley for NARS, Yoon Hyup for Bobbi Brown, and a staggering amount of Shiseido Gallery compacts and lip balms (there are 12, yes, 12 artists in all so I will have to combine several of them in one post.)  Oh, and I want to start a series on the artists whose work appears on Pat McGrath's packaging.

Book reviews (3):  I want to do at least 3, hopefully more.  On my short list: Red Lipstick:  Ode to a Beauty IconStyle and Status:  Selling Beauty to African-American Women, Viva MAC, and Sacred Luxuries:  Fragrance, Aromatherapy and Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt.  I also have two more tomes that have been sitting on my bookshelf for several years. 

New series (3):  I've been thinking about this for years, ever since I did my fantasy Broad City makeup collection.  This would be a series discussing artists whose work I want to see on makeup packaging, complete with mock-ups.  The reason I haven't done it yet is because I lack the technical skills to make said mock-ups, but hopefully I'll figure out a work-around.

Color Connections (?): I'd love to return to Color Connections.  It's such a fun, albeit time-consuming series.

I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way - I think some guest posts and interviews will make an appearance here.

Finally, my book ideas.  These are not new...I do hope to find some time to start writing all three.  I have outlines and chapters for each but that's about it.  The first one is an alternate title for the '90s exhibition.  The second one you can find a description of in this post.  And the last one, well, I still want to do the damn coffee table book of pretty makeup.  We're going on 14 years that I've been wanting to publish it!

Makeup Museum upcoming book list

So those are all the ideas I have swirling about in my brain at the moment.  They are subject to change as I'm sure I'll think of more but at least I've laid out the current ones.  Please let me know in the comments which exhibitions and topics you want to see first!  And if you'd like to help with any definitely let me know.  Book-writing tips are especially needed. ;)


Curator's Corner, December 2019 and yearly wrap-up

CC logoIt's nice to return to Curator's Corner, hopefully I can keep it up in 2020. 

- Why I'm just discovering this book on Maybelline's history is beyond me, but in any case I'd like to check it out.

- Ditto for this amazing blog. I have no idea how our paths didn't cross sooner, but the author recently reached out to me regarding the Sweet Tooth exhibition, and as it turns out we are nearly identical in how we perceive beauty trends and which ones stand out to us.  Saffron has written extensively on food and dessert-themed beauty, but also on cutesy makeup that seems to be intended more for children than adults (see my 2011 Child's Play post) and makeup marketed and packaged as art supplies (a topic I touched on briefly in 2016 and am hoping to unveil an exhibition of later this year).  She's also tackled topics I've had in my drafts folder for years, like apothecary-inspired beauty, CBD products, and zodiac-inspired beauty (you know I love vintage zodiac compacts and there are so many more zodiac-themed products nowadays so I've been wanting to do a full roundup!) Plus she's really into design/packaging and vintage makeup too.  Her "Highlights" feature is like Curator's Corner, and sometimes we even do the same color trends.  I found my beauty twin!  So yeah, go add her blog to your bookmarks and feed reader. 

- More good content comes from Dazed Beauty, including a piece on the weirdest beauty trends from 2019, a critique of Frida Kahlo-themed tweezers, an article on why we get attached to certain makeup items (or in my case, all makeup items) and a review of a new film called Toxic Beauty, which is just like it sounds - highlighting the harmful ingredients used in cosmetics and the industry's lack of regulation.

- I love yellow so naturally I was feeling this graffiti-inspired look at Dior.  I'm less excited about the commodification of mental health care in the name of "wellness" and "self-care" in the beauty industry.

- Sometimes I try to do a trend review at the end of the year, but that clearly wasn't happening in 2019.  Instead, please enjoy these links on the biggest trends of 2019 as well as the decade.  One "trend", if you can call it that, that I'd like to leave behind is influencer drama.  I'm not big on influencers anyway and frankly, I don't care what they're fighting about.  It's irritating that it gets press coverage when there are so many other topics that need attention.

- We can't have a trend roundup without looking ahead to the following year, so here are some forecasts.  I'll also throw in my prediction that merch will continue to be huge among beauty brands.  Along with color-changing cosmetics and the crystal-themed beauty trend, it's yet another topic I want to cover in 2020.

The random:

- The next installment of Makeup Museum Musings will be on either inclusivity or the definition of museums.  This piece at Jezebel came in handy for background research for both topics.

- As a Gen-X'er who started having problems sleeping a few years ago, I need to buy this book ASAP.  You might also remember the author as the woman behind the long-gone '90swoman.com, where I wrote a guest post on '90s beauty well before the resurgence we're experiencing now.

- Speaking of that magical decade, Alanis Morissette has announced she's touring with Liz Phair and Garbage in honor of Jagged Little Pill's 25th anniversary.  Plus, for those of us who still pine away for the days of VHS and Blockbuster, this guy opened a video store in his basement.

- One good thing from 2019 was the arrival of Baby Yoda.  Makeup Museum staff is worried that I think he's cuter than they are so I have to make them extra cookies as reassurance.

And here's a summary of the year on the personal front.  Usually I try to keep the personal stuff to a minimum, but since the Museum is a one-woman show, my personal life inevitably affects Museum business. In 2019 the following took place:

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My father had a massive stroke in March and has not recovered the way we were hoping.  We had no illusions - we knew recovery would not be a straight line and that he wouldn't be the same - but nearly 10 months out he has shown little improvement from the initial episode and is still severely limited physically and cognitively.  It was a bad stroke to begin with, but my father had the added misfortune of developing every conceivable complication and setback.  He is currently getting a second chance in another acute rehab facility, but if he is not able to do basic movements by the end of his stay (such as transferring himself from bed to wheelchair, etc.) he will require full-time care. 

- Speaking of home, my parents no longer have one. My mother was not thinking clearly (obviously seeing your formerly healthy and totally independent partner of over 50 years go downhill so quickly and then not improve is beyond devastating) and over the summer sold the house she and my dad owned for 43 years.  This was my childhood home and where I spent every Christmas, even as an adult, so my eyes swelled shut from crying so much on Christmas Eve as we spent it in the hospital rather than the house. 

- As a result from a nasty fall and broken arm a week before Christmas of 2018, my mother required surgery in June to repair the damaged nerve as she had lost use of her left hand.  We are glad the surgery went well and she has regained full use of her hand, but that fall back in late 2018 was definitely an omen of worse things to come.  Plus, having surgery while also taking care of one's spouse who is recovering from a severe stroke is not exactly good timing.

- A few weeks after my mother's surgery my grandmother died.  My father did not attend the funeral and it's unclear if he fully understood that his mother passed away.

- This isn't a big deal, but it upset me nonetheless.  My favorite band put out a terrible album. Maybe if my dad hadn't had the stroke I wouldn't have taken it so hard, but there seemed to be a parallel between what happened to him and what happened to the band.  It's like they've been replaced by an imposter.  Sure, we get glimpses of how they used to be, there are some moments where they're recognizable, but for the most part they're shells of their former selves.  Every time I look at my dad I think, "That's not him, where is he?"  So the same with Sleater-Kinney - it didn't sound anything like the band I  knew  and loved for so many years.  I bought tickets for a DC show before I heard the album and ended up not going. The unique energy and pure magic they made was entirely absent.  And now that their drummer left they will never be the same...again, just like how my dad will never be the same. 

- Finally, as one last fuck-you from this miserable year, a group of rather unethical entrepreneurs decided it would be a hoot to steal the Museum's name and proclaim to be the "world's first" museum devoted to makeup.  And there are a slew of other copycats starting cosmetics museums but all claiming to be the first and only makeup museum, which is obviously ridiculous as even my museum isn't the first!  And it certainly isn't the only one either.  I found out about most of these entities back in March, literally the day before my father had the stroke - another premonition.  Given his health issues I was unable to deal with the situation swiftly which only made it worse. I may elaborate on the whole disaster at another time in a separate post but for now I'm waiting until I get more information from my attorneys.  I am also in the process of hiring a PR firm.  If anyone knows of a good social media strategist do let me know. 

TLDR; the Curator got her ass kicked repeatedly and thoroughly in 2019 and that's why things around the Museum were so quiet.  I don't know what's going to happen in 2020, but even though I feel like I've already lost, I know I'm not giving up on the Museum without a fight so I am going to try my best to explore the topics and exhibitions I’ve been wanting to cover. And by the way, if anyone tells me that it could be worse and that I should be grateful for the things I didn't lose in the shitshow that was 2019, they will be met with a forceful punch to the throat.  I am grateful and well aware of how much worse things could be - in fact, because I fully recognize this could very well be the year or decade that I lose another close family member, my home, my job, my collection, I'm terrified of what's to come on this dark timeline I can't seem to escape.  I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop...and at the same time I’m throwing myself full force into Museum projects while I still have the opportunity. 

Please tell me you had a better 2019 than I did!  Despite my sad ramblings, I hope you stick around and continue to support the Museum in 2020 and beyond. 


Curator's picks and pans for 2019

Welcome to the 2019 edition of Curator's Picks and Pans!  It's been a bad year for me and the Museum, but at least there was some great makeup!  And some not so great too but again, they were a welcome distraction. 

First up are my picks, i.e. the items with what I thought had the best concepts and design.

1.  Mikimoto holiday 2019 collection:  I haven't even written about this one yet - I hope to get a post up early in the new year - but as with last year's holiday collection as soon as I laid eyes on it I ordered without batting an eye.  This year Mikimoto partnered with artist/illustrator Brecht Evens, who created even more mermaid-laden and fantastical underwater scenes than last year's collection.

Mikimoto holiday 2019 makeup
(image from mikimoto-cosme.com)

2. Paul and Joe x Doraemon:  I must admit I was totally unfamiliar with Doraemon, a wildly popular manga character from Japan, when I first heard about this collection.  It was a perfect fit for Paul & Joe given the founder's love of cats as well as her penchant for quirky, playful prints and collaborations (see the 2016 Warner Bros. collaboration.)  I hope to write about it sometime in 2020.

Paul & Joe x Doraemon
(image from blog.ulifestyle.com)

3.  Chanel Eiffel Tower Illluminating Powder:  I don't have much to say about this other than it was released in honor of the opening of Chanel's first beauty-only boutique in Paris.  The embossing was so lovely and intricate, and the exclusivity made it impossible for me to resist - it was only available at Chanel boutiques in France and and the French website (I acquired it through ebay).  Plus it's a fabulous piece to have if I ever want to revisit the Museum's fall 2015 Paris/French-themed exhibition.

Chanel Paris highlighter

As the Museum continues to expand its vintage holdings, for the first time I'm including my top vintage acquisitions. 

1.  Stila paint cans:  The picture shows the Museum's entire collection since I was too lazy to weed out exactly which ones I got this year, but back in February I bought 20 rare vintage (okay, maybe not quite vintage yet but very close) paint cans on ebay from a former collector who didn't have room.  I was sad for her but glad I could give them a good home.  Plus they really added something extra to the Stila girl exhibition.

Stila paint cans

2.  Volupté Petite Boudoir:  among my many weaknesses are novelty compacts and palettes.  I had been coveting this adorable vanity-shaped compact for ages, so when I saw one in excellent condition at a great price I pounced. For photography purposes (and because I love miniatures) I purchased some mini makeup items as accessories.

Volupté Petite Boudoir compact

Volupté Petite Boudoir compact

Here's an ad for it from one of my collector's guides, in case you're curious.

Volupté Petit Boudoir compact ad, 1950

3.  Yardley Glimmerick eyeshadow set:  Another I haven't gotten around to sharing, but I was so pleased to get this one in fantastic shape and still with with the insert.  

Yardley Glimmerick paint box

Yardley Glimmerick paint box

And now for the more lackluster releases this year.

1.  Madonna by Too-Faced:  A hugely successful brand collaborating with a pop culture icon seems like a surefire hit, but dear lord was this unimaginative.  I'm truly shocked at how boring this was.  Between the flamboyance of Jerrod Blandino and Madge's propensity to push boundaries, I expected way more not just in packaging but the entire concept.

Madonna by Too-Faced

Madonna by Too-Faced
(images from shop.madonna.com)

2.  Revlon x Mrs. Maisel:  Another squandered opportunity, and much like the Estée Lauder Mad Men collaborations, a good idea but poor execution.  You would think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel would be a goldmine for inspiration.  Midge worked at the Revlon makeup counter so the brand makes sense, but why the packaging didn't get a fabulous retro/vintage treatment I'll never know. 

Revlon x Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
(image from ew.com)

3.  Guerlain Rouge G Wild Glam case:  Maybe it's sour grapes because I can't afford it, but I wasn't a fan of this one.  It's a cool design, but not $290 cool!  I honestly have no idea what Guerlain was thinking.

Guerlain Rouge G Wild Glam case
(image from neimanmarcus.com)

If I'm going to pay 300 bones for a lipstick case (and I've done it before, embarrassingly enough) it better at least have some sort of handmade element or utilize precious materials.  As far as I can tell, neither of those things came into play here.  It's just plain old rhinestones (not even Swarovski - I mean COME ON) and a silver-toned case, not real silver plating.  And it wasn't handmade by a jeweler, just designed by one.  It does say the rhinestones were "hand-set", but I'm skeptical.  Plus this other rhinestone-encrusted case is within a normal price range, costing a mere $36.  Finally, I'm confused by the snake motif, as it doesn't have any significance for Guerlain that I'm aware of.  It felt like a very uninspired piece overall.

And those are some makeup highlights and lowlights of 2019.  (I was going to do picks and pans for the past decade but immediately got overwhelmed, so I'm keeping it simple.)  What do you think of these choices?  Please visit the archives and let me know!