Curator's Corner, 7/21/2012
Corno for Lancôme

MM Musings, Vol. 4: Poppin fresh

Makeup Museum (MM) Musings is a series that examines a broad range of museum topics as they relate to the collecting of cosmetics, along with my vision for a "real", physical Makeup Museum.  These posts help me think through how I'd run things if the Museum was an actual organization, as well as examine the ways it's currently functioning.  I also hope that these posts make everyone see that the idea of a museum devoted to cosmetics isn't so crazy after all - it can be done!

Ryan-Gosling-popup copyDefinition and examples

Museum Unbound defines a pop-up museum as a "short-term thing existing in a temporary space. A pop-up exhibition or pop-up museum is usually based on ad hoc contents, visitor contributions, and of-the-moment timing...these work a lot like events rather than exhibitions. There is the element of limited-time only. Pop-ups usually happen in an existing institution."  The author points out that while pop-up museums usually occur within a permanent space, they don't necessarily have to.  They can be staged, or even as "roadside attractions", such as Baltimore's very own Roadside Attractions exhibitions at the city's annual Artscape festival (going on this weekend!)  Meanwhile, Nina Simon of Museum 2.0 describes a pop-up museum as a means for visitors to have a more participatory experience, citing the example of the Denver Community Museum's experimental, temporary pop-up museum where visitors could submit their own pieces and share their stories in a number of ways.  Finally, back in January of this year Prada launched a 24-hour museum in Paris's Palais d'Iéna designed by Milan-based artist Francesco Vezzoli.  It was divided into three parts, "each inspired by a particular type of museum space: historic, contemporary and forgotten. In each of the three sections, Vezzoli has created a 'non-existent museum' where he will show his personal tribute to femininity through interpretations of classical sculptures that make reference to contemporary divas. 'They are my icons turned into sculptures and placed on marble pedestals,' he explained." 



(images from and

To read more about the museum and Vezzoli's inspiration behind it you should check out the exhibition catalog.

In a nutshell, my definition of a pop-up museum is that it's a temporary exhibition, lasting anywhere from a few hours to several months, that is staged in either a permanent or temporary space and may or may not involve visitor participation.  I get the sense that there aren't really any strict rules, which may make it difficult to plan, but also gives one much more freedom in structuring it.

Implementation for the Makeup Museum

So how does one go about launching a pop-up museum?  Particularly one devoted to cosmetics?  There is a bit of a catch-22 - I think first I'd like to consider what visitors would want to see, which would determine the objects I'd choose to show and the overall exhibition design.  However, finding a location to actually have the pop-up museum is crucial, and the space itself might dictate what sort of objects could be included.  I think the feel of and the objects displayed in a pop-up museum for makeup might change based on whether it was housed in a cutting-edge gallery, a permanent museum, a more experimental art space, or at an arts festival.  For example, for a more traditional, permanant space here in B'more, say, the BMA, a pop-up exhibition on makeup from or inspired by the early 20th century would dovetail nicely with their amazing Cone collection.  Or if the pop-up took place in a gallery featuring contemporary artists, I would include artist collaboration pieces, e.g. Hiroshi Tanabe for RMK, Marcel Wanders for MAC, Anselm Reyle for Dior, Ai Yamaguchi for Shu, etc.

The second issue would be whether I'd want visitors to participate in the exhibition and if so, the extent to which they get involved.  My gut feeling is that there wouldn't be any sort of participation beyond the option to leave feedback either at the site of the pop-up museum or online here.  If I wanted to go for a more participatory route, I could always ask visitors to submit their personal experiences and stories about cosmetics, or ask them to create artworks using makeup.  Frankly though, I'd prefer a more passive role for them - to just show some collection highlights and let visitors absorb them, at least to start with.  As I said earlier, that's one of the great things about a pop-up museum:  there aren't any rules, so launching several over the course of a few years or even months is a definite possibility.

So it looks like I've got my work cut out for me!  However, in writing this I think I've come up with a plan, or at least the first step - research locations in the city that would be willing to host a pop-up exhibition on makeup.  Rather than deciding about what objects I'd want to include up front as I originally planned, it seems the more logical way to go would be to find a space first and go from there. 

What would you want to see in a makeup-based pop-up museum or exhibition?

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