Curator's Corner, December 2018 (plus a quick blog note)

CC logoHere are December's links, some of which are yearly recaps.  Enjoy!

- Allure takes a look back at the year's wackiest Instagram fads, while this article highlights how the notion of "inclusive beauty" (a.k.a. the "Fenty effect" was 2018's standout trend among beauty companies.  Plus, I'm wondering if 2018's influencer drama has anything to do with beauty consumers' waning interest in social media

- As a sort of follow-up to my MM Musings on wasteful beauty packaging, it seems more beauty bloggers are speaking out against excessive packaging.

- I'm always interested in taking a peek in other people's makeup bags.

- Another ugly side of the beauty industry is the predatory nature of cosmetology schools.  With the success of these and other for-profit schools, along with the crippling debt of student loans for basically anyone who isn't wealthy, I'm not hopeful for a solution any time soon.

- I'm loving the return of lip gloss, although in my '90s nostalgia-addled mind it was never really gone. 

- Also super excited for Pantone's 2019 Color of the Year - coral is my go-to makeup shade.

The random:

- It might seem like nothing good happened in 2018, but here's proof that it wasn't a total dumpster fire.

- I think I might have experienced Stendhal Syndrome on more than one occasion (and  I fully believe it can occur outside of Florence). Fortunately it didn't culminate in a heart attack like it did for this poor man who was recently overcome by Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.

- Did you know you can also be overwhelmed by cuteness?  I know I live with the urge to squeeze the fluff out of Museum staff 24/7.  It's very hard not to hug them too hard!

- "He was small in stature, but of the utmost symmetry of form."  Speaking of too cute, I was mesmerized by this Roman sarcophagus that holds the remains of a very fancy pug named Harlequin.  I only wish there was a painting of him so we could see his little squishy face and curly tail.

And finally, a quick blog note.  I'll be returning to my usual slow schedule of about 1 post per week.  I'm not sure if you noticed, but I ramped up the volume during December in order to cover all the holiday collections I wanted to before the actual holidays.  Doing so came at a price:  I had no energy left to do a holiday/winter exhibition.  I'm also scrapping the idea of a 10-year anniversary exhibition, since honestly I'm feeling the same way I did this time last year and also felt that a decade of not getting anywhere wasn't exactly a good reason to celebrate with an exhibition (and one that wouldn't have turned out the grandiose way I wanted it to anyway.)  Lastly, I'm going to continue blogging because I still enjoy collecting makeup and writing about it and because I have no identity without blogging - if I'm not a fake curator of a fake online museum who am I? - but I will no longer be banging my head against a wall trying to get an exhibition or physical space for the Museum, nor will I be pursuing any of the book ideas I've had over the years.  In short, I have thoroughly given up on any projects outside blogging and maintaining the Museum's collection.  Having said all that, I'll still do my best to research and provide information about various items given the scant resources I have available to me, and I'll still be doing my sad little seasonal bedroom exhibitions and putting them online.  So that's the plan for now.

How were your holidays?  Any plans, goals or resolutions for 2019?


Curator's picks and pans for 2018

One of the annual blog traditions I started a while back was gathering my favorite and least favorite releases of the year.  While I neglected to do this for 2017, I'm triumphantly returning to the tradition this year.  Here are my top 3 picks from 2018.  It was hard to choose!

1.  The mermaid-themed goodies illustrator Donald Robertson created for Rodin Olio Lusso took my breath away.  Plus I got a bag customized by the artist himself.

Rodin Olio Lusso x Donald Robertson

2.  I know there was significant backlash to it, but I just loved the MAC Jeremy Scott collection.  So. Much. Nostalgia.

MAC Jeremy Scott

3.  There were so many amazing collections this holiday season, but since I'm forcing myself to choose I'm going with the stunning Shine Classic compacts from Sulwhasoo, which celebrate a part of Korean cultural heritage that nearly went extinct. 

Sulwhasoo holiday 2018

There were a few vintage honorable mentions as well, including some pieces that I've acquired but haven't shared yet (stay tuned!), as well as the plethora of donations the Museum received.  So incredibly thoughtful and generous!

Now for the pans.  Sometimes even brands that have released previous Curator's picks miss the mark.  I guess they can't all be winners, right?

1.  Givenchy African Light highlighter.  Cultural appropriation much?  I found everything from the name to the description ("a gorgeous illuminating powder adorned with African ethnic motifs [that] evokes the color of African deserts, while the light frangipani fragrance reminds of the lush South African gardens") to be fairly problematic. 

Givenchy African Light highlighter
(image from beautyalmanac.com)

2.  I love iridescent packaging, but Shu's spring 2018 Tokyo Spirit collection left me cold.  It was just so uninspired.  The addition of Qee figurines on the lipstick cases did nothing either.

Shu Uemura Tokyo Spirit

Shu Uemura Tokyo Spirit
(images from chicprofile.com)

3.  While I enjoyed Lancôme's spring 2018 collection, the Proenza Schouler collab was a complete snoozefest for me.  It's a shame, as I think they could have done so much more.

Lancome Proenza Schouler
(image from beautyalmanac.com)

Do you agree with these choices?  What were your favorite items this year?  Have a spin through the Museum's archives and Instagram and tell me what you think!


Pearls on the half shell: Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre

Over the years I've become much more aware of brands sold outside the U.S., but this holiday season I discovered yet another new-to-me brand based in Japan.  Mikimoto is a historic purveyor of fine pearls and jewelry, founded in 1899 by Kokichi Mikimoto, the first person to successfully create cultured pearls.  The cosmetics line was established in 1970 and as far as I know is not available for sale in the States.  When a fellow collector alerted me to their holiday lineup, a collaboration with French illustrator Emmanuel Pierre, I took one look and knew it belonged in the Museum.  The appropriately themed Wish on a Pearl collection playfully celebrates Mikimoto's heritage thanks to the delightfully strange collages by Pierre. 

Can we just take a second to appreciate how beautifully the two key pieces from the collection were wrapped?!  A sturdy blue tote bag was also included.  This sophisticated wrapping is a refined contrast to the unbridled weirdness that lies inside.  Get ready, it's gonna be a wild ride!

Mikimoto-wrapped

The eyeshadow palette has a bizarre scene depicting a winged seahorse, several figures whose lower halves consist of a bird, fish and shells, and a cheeky little boy gleefully picking his nose and wearing a hat made of coral.  He sits atop a crescent moon, which is being hugged by a girl-jellyfish hybrid. My favorite character is the lady on the right holding a lipstick above a Christmas tree decorated with coral and pearls.

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

The palette itself has equally peculiar figures:  another half-seashell, half-woman wearing a hat adorned with a tomato and holding a spiral shell sprouting berry sprigs, and a man dressed in 17th century (?) garb with a mandela blooming around his waist. 

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

After spending a solid week looking at these images and others by Pierre, I still couldn't make any sense out of them so I asked my fellow former art history major husband what he thought.  He seemed to think they had a slight fairy tale or children's book vibe, and as it turns out, he was spot on (of course).  The Mikimoto cosmetics site provides a little bedtime Christmas story for the characters represented on the packaging.  As always, Google Translate doesn't help clear things up, but at least I found that there was a brief narrative behind the collection.  The first section is called "In the Sea" and is accompanied by one of the images from the palette box.  The text reads, "Christmas soon. The pearl sparkled in the sea, It seems to be a star hitting the night sky. Fish, shells, starfish, too. I'm counseling gifts. sand of star. A stone mirror. Coral lipstick. One from a gorgeous conversation. The girl is crying. 'You lost the pearl you kept.'"

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

The next segment is called "The Shining Night" (which, from when I can deduce, signifies Christmas Eve in this story) and introduces a mermaid. "A pale girl. The mermaid that can not be left alone, Pearls I owned I will give it to the girl. That night, The mermaid woke up with a bright light. The pearls decorated in the Coral Forest raise the moonlight, It seems as if it melted all over. A young man appears from over there. The two danced together."  The mermaid on the right appears on the box for the stationery set, which I'll show in a minute.

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

The final section is entitled "On Christmas Day" and features the couple from the palette: "The next morning. Mermaid is a night event I noticed that it was not a dream. That young man came over. In his hands the pearl that should have given the girl shine. Mermaid's skin looks like a pearl. It was glossy and transparent. This is transmitted from long ago. The sea Christmas story."

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018
(images from mikimoto-cosme.com)

I can't say I understood any of that, but I do like the overall sea theme and mention of a mermaid.  I'm guessing it's a story about giving the gift of pearl essence for Christmas and how its luster makes one's skin luminous and dewy like a mermaid's?  Anyway, there's no mention of the blonde bird lady or little boy, but they do appear again on the face powder box.  The powder itself is encased in a pearl-shaped container with an iridescent finish. My photos can't even approximate its beauty.  (The palette also has this finish but I couldn't seem to capture it there either.)

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

There was also a little makeup bag and a set of note cards which came free with the purchase of both makeup items.  A brush set and train case were additional gifts-with-purchase, but I was too late to get my hands on them.

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Two of the three postcard designs are the same as those on the makeup, while the third shows a half shell/half woman wearing a hat made out of a crab and holding a heart-shaped gift box.  Additional shells and pearls are scattered towards her "foot".

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

The poems on the cards offer no explanation for the images nor do they seem to align with the narrative from the website, but obviously Pierre continued with ocean/shell/sea creature motifs to tie in to the pearl theme.

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

At first glance, Emmanuel Pierre (b. 1958) seemed like an odd choice for a collaboration with a fairly traditional company like Mikimoto.  It wasn't until I noticed his work for the likes of Hermès and the New Yorker that it started to seem like a good fit.  Still, I find his work to be incredibly strange.  It's one of those "the more you look at it, the weirder it gets" styles.  And that's a great thing for me, given my love for all things offbeat and oddball.  I couldn't find any interviews with the artist and my art history training is failing me yet again so I can't give a thorough or even remotely accurate analysis of Pierre's work, but I will say I think it has a slight Dada feel to it given the emphasis on collages and absurdist imagery and text.  These characteristics provide a different flavor than Surrealism, whose bizarre scenes tended to be rooted in an attempt to represent the unconscious.  Pierre's oeuvre also lacks the occasionally unsettling or menacing vibes of Surrealism; I find it more whimsical and humorous than creepy, and the Dadaists were well-known for their sense of humor and quick wit.  To put it briefly, I'm thinking more Duchamp than Dali when I look at Pierre's work.  So let's take a peek, shall we?

While Pierre certainly proves his mettle at conventional illustration styles, it's his collages - fantastical scenes depicting figures dressed in anachronistic clothing and oddly combined with a range of objects and animals - where I think he truly excels. Take, for example, these ladies engaged in some sort of strawberry/comb exchange...and did you notice the kitty paws on the woman on the right?

Screen Shot 2018-12-28 at 2.53.43 PM

And this jellyfish lady made me smile. You can see the lower portion of her bell on the makeup bag.

Smile of jellyfish

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Here are the very clever 2015 annual report and Wanderland exhibition catalogue he designed for Hermès.

Hermes 2015 annual report illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

Hermes 2015 annual report illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

Hermes 2015 exhibition book illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

Hermes 2015 exhibition book illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

Hermes 2015 exhibition book illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

These illustrations for World of Interiors magazine show that, while Pierre's choice of motifs seem totally out of left field at first, they actually make sense in that they always express the topic they're accompanying.  As with the Mikimoto collection, the artist brings together fanciful images to form a cohesive theme that represents whatever subject he's working on - in this case, the food, tea kettle and brick chimneys signal home decor. 

Emmanuel Pierre, World of Interiors

Emmanuel Pierre, World of Interiors

Emmanuel Pierre, World of Interiors

The husband's earlier observation about the fairy tale quality of Pierre's work made me wonder whether he's illustrated children's books.  Sure enough, he completed a book for kids on the Carnival of Venice.  The strange masks and costumes can be downright scary for little ones (and, um, even for grownups such as myself), but Pierre's skillful, whimsical touch ensures nothing but fun through the canals and streets of Venice during the festivities.

Emmanuel Pierre, Venice Masquerade

Emmanuel Pierre, Venice Masquerade

Emmanuel Pierre, Venice Masquerade
(images from @emmanuelpierre_illustrateur, emmanuelpierre.fr, and tiphaine-illustration.com)

I also wonder whether Pierre is influenced at all by late 19th century greeting cards.  The human-animal-object hybrids and anthropomorphic figures are reminding me of the more bizarre scenes sometimes found in Victorian holiday cards.  Compare a few side by side (Pierre's work on the left/top, antique cards on the right/bottom). 

Emmanuel Pierre/19th century greeting card

Emmanuel Pierre/19th century greeting card

Emmanuel Pierre/19th century greeting card

Here are some examples of the animal-humans (human-animals?).  The first three are by Pierre, the next three are from the late 1800s.

Emmanuel Pierre

Emmanuel Pierre

Emmanuel Pierre

19th century greeting card

19th century greeting card

19th century greeting card
(images from @emmanuelpierre_illustrateur and designyoutrust.com)

Those turn-of-the-century folks had some weird tastes, I can tell you that!  (Their imagery also goes a lot darker and creepier than you would expect, especially for what are supposed to be joyous occasions.)  These also have me questioning whether Pierre comes up with his own vintage styles for these collages or if he uses authentic vintage sources, i.e. does he come up with all these characters and then draw everything by hand or does he somehow trace or cut out pieces from vintage magazines and other ephemera?  I'm very curious about his process.

Getting back to the Mikimoto collection, I'm still wondering how the collaboration came about and why the company selected Pierre.   I guess they wanted some charming French flair for their holiday lineup, which is a good choice.  I love more modern illustration styles, but for the holidays I find myself craving more quaint, vintage styles since I get so nostalgic.  In any case, I'm assuming as with his other clients Pierre created the images used on the packaging especially for the Mikimoto collection, although he never revealed it when he shared them back in April on his Instagram.  I have many unanswered questions, but overall I enjoyed the collection.  As you know I'm obsessed with mermaids and their underwater lairs, so weird half-seashell/fish people are right up my alley!

What do you think?  What's your favorite image from Pierre's work that I've shown here?