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March 2013

Curator's Corner, 3/30/2013

CC logoJust cannot keep up lately!  Here are some random links from the past few weeks. 

- Beautiful with Brains shares a delightful bit of cosmetics advice from the 19th century.

- Sociological Images brings us a graph depicting how many Ph.D.s are professors.  The numbers are grim but I seriously don't care - I still want a doctoral degree more than anything in the whole wide world.  :(  The fact that I may never do anything with it is totally inconsequential.

- The more I read about this upcoming punk fashion exhibition at the Met, the more crazed I am to see it.

- The Baltimore edition of Bizarre Foods aired earlier this week.  I haven't seen it, but I am pleased Mr. Zimmern visited Woodberry Kitchen, one of my favorite restaurants.

- Refinery29 has a list of ways you can find feminism in your beauty routine, while XO Vain challenges unfeminist nail polish names.  Can't say I'm outraged...for the most part nail polish names (particularly OPI's) are clever and funny so I can look the other way on the minority that are sexist.

Anyone else loving Jezebel's '80s vs. '90s take on March Madness?  Greatest. Idea. Ever.

Happy Easter!

Not Van Gogh: Elizabeth Arden sunflower palettes

I'm counteracting yesterday's snow (!) with some oh-so-springy palettes from Elizabeth Arden.  These are the first Makeup Museum purchases from this company, and as far as I know, the first time sunflowers have been used as a motif in makeup packaging (save for some vintage compacts).  I was so excited to see these as sunflowers have been my favorite flower for as long as I can remember.

The New York in Bloom collection consists of a teal eye liner and nail polish, plus three palettes:  a bronzing powder and two eye shadow trios.  While I'm not crazy about the cartoonish flowers on the outer cases, I love the gorgeous embossed sunflower patterns on the inside.


Here's the bronzer.





Violet Bloom eye shadow trio:




Viridian Bloom eye shadow trio:






While I do think these are beautiful pieces, I couldn't find any information on the relevance of sunflowers to the Elizabeth Arden brand.  I do know of their Sunflowers fragrance, but other than that there haven't been any references to sunflowers - it's not integral to the brand's identity in, say, the way the rose is to Lancôme or the camellia to Shiseido.  But that's okay because it gives me a chance to talk about sunflowers in art instead!

We're all familiar with Van Gogh's sunflower paintings, but many other famous artists used this bloom as their muse too.  We'll start all the way back in the 1600s with Van Dyck's Self-Portrait with a Sunflower, in which the sunflower was generally seen as "an emblem connected with royal patronage" but could also signify "Van Dyck himself...the picture is to be understood primarily as an expression of the painter's devotion to the king rather than as an acknowledgement of royal patronage."

(image from commons.wikimedia.org)

Fast-forwarding a few hundred years (hey, I can't include EVERY single sunflower-related work of art!) we have Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones's fascination with sunflowers.  He wrote to his friend Frances Homer, "Do you know sunflowers?  How they peep at you and look brazen sometimes and proud - and others look shy and some so modest that up go their hands to hide their brown blushes...I could draw them forever, and should love to sit for days drawing them...it is so right to make them talk mottoes, they all look as if they were thinking."  These include a stained glass panel at Christ Church in Oxford depicting scenes from The Legend of St. Frideswide and a drawing, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came (1861):

(images from medievalmuse-arteffex.blogspot.com and magnoliabox.com)

There's also The Wine of Circe, based on a poem by fellow Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

(image from preraphaelitesisterhood.com)

Some more examples from around Van Gogh's time include Mary Cassatt's Mother Wearing a Sunflower on Her Dress (1905), while Paul Gauguin actually painted a picture of Van Gogh painting sunflowers in 1888.  How very meta.


(images from marycassatt.org and commons.wikimedia.org)

Monet also got in on the sunflower game.

(image from gallerycache.wordpress.com)

While Gustav Klimt may be known best for The Kiss, he completed several lovely paintings of sunflowers (these are from 1905-1907).

(images from encore-editions.com)

There some great representations of sunflowers later throughout the 20th century.  Some highlights:

Edward Steichen, The Sunflower, 1920

(image from nga.gov)

Tons of sunflowers by Emil Nolde (these range in date from 1920-1932).  I had a hard time narrowing it down to just these four works!  Nolde was a huge admirer of Van Gogh, and "it took considerable boldness for a painter who admired van Gogh as much as Nolde did to paint sunflowers, yet he often returned to them and added a new and rich interpretation to the motif."


(images from thearttribune.com, bonhams.com, christies.com and museumsyndicate.com)

Georgia O'Keefe, Sunflower, New Mexico, 1935

(image from infinityhouse.blogspot.com)

Diego Rivera, Girl with Sunflowers, 1941 and Sunflowers, 1943


(images from polarbearstale.blogspot.com)

In the latter half of the 20th century we have abstract artist Joan Mitchell's take on sunflowers, which she painted early on in her career and revisited throughout - below is Sunflowers III (1969) and Sunflowers (1990-1991).


(images from joanmitchellfoundation.org and newabstraction.net)

If I were an artist, sunflowers would be my number one subject.  :)

Anyway, I hope that this little survey of sunflowers throughout art history was an acceptable substitute for more in-depth information on Elizabeth Arden's use of sunflowers in the company's spring 2013 collection.  I found the palettes to be a refreshing change from the usual florals we see each spring (especially roses). 

What do you think of these palettes?  And what's your favorite flower?  Has it been featured on a makeup item before?

Friday Fun: new Makeup Museum staff member!

Say hello to Babo Bear!


Here's the description from the Uglydolls website.  "Babo thinks Teddy Bears are SO awesome! But carrying them around is such a chore. First he has to deal with those sad individuals who tease him for carrying around a stuffed animal...how many times does Babo have to give THAT speech...right? You know...the one about how people who mock others or tease… they only do so because they are player haters and secretly wish they could do the same? Calling me a baby? Notice how adults with brief cases never tease people... it’s always LITTLE KIDDIES. Now who’s the baby. Then there’s the getting lost thing. Teddy Bears get lost! Hotels, restaurants, skydiving...forget it! So the easy fix is BE a Teddy Bear! Mega-smarty combo! Now he can be himself AND get on with the day."

I introduced him to his Babo brethren...so many Babos, the rest of the Makeup Museum staff couldn't fit in this pic!


Like all Babos, he was able to immediately make his way to the cookie jar.  I also got him some honey.  He is a bear, after all.


He's an unusual size - not as big as a regular Uglydoll but bigger than the Little Uglys.  


Since he is just a wee cub, I'm not sure what he'll do around the Museum.  Whatever it is, it'll have to be only for spring and summer, as he'll want to hibernate in the cooler months.  ;)

Aerin Floral Illuminating Powder

AERIN Cosmetics is the new kid on the high-end makeup block.  Launched last fall by the granddaughter of Estée Lauder, the line features "a unique floral infusion in each product that adds a special touch of luxury to the entire AERIN experience."  For spring, Aerin took her love of flowers to new heights with the Floral Illuminating Powder.  Encased in a square compact that resembles finely woven gold thread, the palette contains a trio of wavy-edged petals with touches of green and yellow billowing out from the flower's center.










Maybe I'm just under the influence of the vaguely Indian patterned dress Aerin is wearing in the promo image for her spring collection, but something about the petals in the palette reminds me a little of Indian textiles - specifically, the ones made for the Western market starting around the 17th century.

(image from neimanmarcus.com)

I'm nowhere near knowledgeable enough to go into even a brief history of Indian textiles*, but I did manage to pull together some images that I thought somewhat resembled the floral design on the palette.

The colors and shapes of the flowers on this Kashmir shawl are pretty close.  This one comes from the world-renowned TAPI collection (Textiles & Art of the People of India).

(image from blog.saffronart.com)

The outlines on the petals are similar to this fabric (known as kalamkari).

(image from in.all.biz)

The somewhat amorphous green shapes on the petals (are they more flowers?  stars?) reminded me of those in this design, found in a book of traditional Indian textile patterns.

(image from flickr.com)

The way the petals overlap slightly and fan out from the rest of the flower look like this gorgeous red palampore (bed cover) from the 18th century.  This one comes from the V & A Museum.


(images from karuncollection.com)

Lastly, the overall pattern on this piece, with its slightly drooping flowers budding from delicate branches, is also close to the one on the outer case of the AERIN Garden Dusk palette.

(image from aerin.com)

I may be reaching in these comparisons, especially since the "World of Aerin" mentions no Indian inspiration at all, but to my eye the palette's design approximates exported Indian textiles.  In any case, it's at least pretty and will make an excellent addition to the spring exhibition - a very strong start from AERIN.

What do you think?

*If you want to learn more about Indian textiles that were made for the West, some books to check out are Masters of the Cloth:  Indian Textiles Traded to Distant Shores and Chintz:  Indian Textiles from the West

Spring 2013 color trend: Minty fresh

Hello and happy spring!!  In honor of this glorious day which means that warmth and light will be here soon, I'm pleased to bring you what I think is THE color for spring 2013.   Pale, blueish mint was all over this season's runways, and there's a bevy of new beauty products for you to recreate the trend. 


Clockwise from top left:  Kate Spade spring 2013 runway show, YSL lipstick in Frosted Mint, Zoya nail polish in Neely, Derek Lam spring 2013 runway show, China Glaze Keep Calm Paint On nail polish, Lorac Mint Condition palette, Rebecca Minkoff spring 2013 runway show, Anna Sui loose powder pigment in Jewel Green, Shu Uemura Unmask Blue palette

I felt like I also kept seeing this color in print...or at least, I love mint so I notice whenever I see it!

Elle magazine, January 2013:


InStyle magazine, March 2013:


Oddly enough, in this issue they also ran a feature on the same color but called it pistachio.  Um, mint is NOT pistachio.



J. Crew catalogue cover, March 2013:


However, unlike years past, I did struggle with naming this season's one and only "it" color.  One could easily argue that fuchsia (or any shade of bold, hot pink) is the biggest trend. 


Clockwise from top left:  Donna Karan spring 2013 runway show, Armani Blushing Fabric in #9 (Fuchsia), Giles spring 2013 runway show, NARS lipstick in Dressed to Kill, Oscar de la Renta spring 2013 runway show, MAC Archie's Girls blush in Prom Princess, Chantecaille spring 2013 ad, Lancome Baume in Love in Urban Ballet, Burberry Lip Glow in Pink Sweet Pea

I also saw this popping up various publications (can you tell I'm a little addicted to magazines?)

Lucky magazine, March 2013:


Elle magazine, March 2013:


Sephora ad - I forget which mag I pulled this out of but it was a March issue:


Allure magazine, March 2013:


And in some instances, like this Target ad, both mint green and bold pink made an appearance (PJ at A Touch of Blusher did a great round-up of the latest pink and green combos for spring).


Despite the explosion of hot pink, I ended up declaring mint to be the winner as it's my second favorite color (the first being lemon yellow).  You might remember that I made a mint background for last year's spring exhibition poster, and how much I was inspired by this shade for the Sweet Tooth exhibition.

Will you be making some mint magic this spring?  I know I will, but my fave minty colors lean more green rather than the slightly blue tint taken on by some of these products.

MM Musings, Vol. 9: Branding

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!

Hey-girl-brandToday's installment of MM Musings will take a quick look at museum branding and how the Makeup Museum may build its brand. 

1.  The basics

What is a brand, and how is it different than a name or logo?   A brand is how an audience perceives your organizaton.  This Masters thesis on museum branding defines it thusly:   "In a nutshell, brand is the perception of a product, service, or company that people have in their minds. It also is what people say about a product, service, or company. Though a name or logo reflects the brand and is a visual form of each brand, a brand is more than just as a name or logo."  Museum marketing expert Jim Richardson agrees:  "Your brand is the perception that people have of your organization. It is formed through everything you do, from how you present your collections through to the service in your café." 

2.  Why do museums need a brand?

In order to compete with other forms of entertainment and even continue their very existence, in the past 20 years or so museums (and the nonprofit sector as a whole, for that matter) have shifted to managing themselves like businesses.  "The worth of cultural institutions [is] now mostly based on efficient/effective and transparent use of public funds, resulting in the need for museums to find the perfect balance between high-quality visit experience and market success in the form of high attendance levels. Not only that, but museums also face further challenges as they compete with other leisure providers for audience, donations, partnerships and sponsorships."  (source) A crucial part of being a successful for-profit is branding. 

Additionally, people are looking for ways to interact with a museum's contents.  Not content to be mere spectators, museum-goers increasingly use technology to gain a more comprehensive museum experience.  Branding is necessary to bridge the gap between a museum's traditional, static role and the visitors who expect a more participatory interaction. "The gradual migration of both museums and visitors into the buzzing hyper-connected universe of Web 2.0 means that the relationship between museum and visitor is ever more dynamic. Branding is key in facilitating museums’ mutation from teaching institutions into cultural platforms for discussion and sharing." (source)

3.  What makes a brand successful?

In order for a brand to be effective, it needs to get to the heart of your organization's mission.  As the president of an arts marketing firm says, "You have to tell people what you do, who you are, what your reason for being is...otherwise, you leave it up to them."  Case in point:  the Guggenheim Museum.  James McNamara, president of the firm Arts Branding, notes,  "What the Guggenheim understands is that each of its museums must embody the Foundation’s original goals and must embody the attributes that are true and unique to the Guggenheim brand...effective branding is honed over time and reflects the original premise, the original idea, the reason for being. Showcasing contemporary art in 1939 was certainly risky, envelope-pushing, and trail-blazing at the time – attributes that are still endemic to the Guggenheim brand today." 

4.  Branding for the Makeup Museum

How can the Makeup Museum build its brand?  Unfortunately, like acquiring a public space, developing a brand identity is a formidable task that will require significant resources - not so much to come up with branding ideas, but to implement them.  That said, a case study of the New Museum's re-branding has a concise outline of the process that can be loosely applied to the Makeup Museum.  The first step is to determine how a museum's mission can be applied to a brand identity.  "If the institution has a well-defined and compelling mission statement, it is in a better position in terms of branding.  This is because the first step of branding is to clarify identity including who you are, what you do, and why it matters. Differentiation starts by defining unique identity."  Indeed, it's necessary to highlight how your organization is different.   "[M]useums are different from one another and its appeal lies exactly in its distinctiveness...positioning position (e.g. as the most diverse museum in the area, the most innovative museum, and so on) is the way in which a museum communicates its unique values, being crucial to achieve differential advantage so that the audience understands, appreciates, and is drawn to what it stands for." (source)  This aspect of branding would be pretty easy, as I believe the Makeup Museum is the only contemporary cosmetics museum in the entire U.S.

But what is the overall message that I want to the Makeup Museum brand to communicate?  Here's the mission statement (which you can also find under Museum Information). 

- Preserve and document contemporary and vintage cosmetic items, both for beauty consumers and the general public.

- Promote these items as legitimate cultural artifacts by examining the design and artistic inspiration behind them.

- Explore the sociological and cultural impact these objects and their advertising have on consumers, particularly women.

- Research and record the history of the beauty industry and the culture therein. 

After the message been established, the work of translating this message into a brand and getting it out to the public can begin.  This is where things get tricky.  How would I get these four critical points into an appealing and effective brand identity?  I've come to the conclusion that while I have a good foundation for a brand (clearly defined mission and differentiation), the actual implementation is going to take a lot more research and time than this post allows.  So for now I will check out this book by museum marketing expert Margot Wallace, and follow her blog on the same topic. 

Any bloggers or museum pros out there - have you given serious thought to the notion of branding?

Curator's Corner, 3/16/2013

CC logoLinks for the week. 

- SXSW took place in Austin, where The Punk Singer, a documentary on my hero Kathleen Hanna premiered.  Way back in 2011 I donated to the Kickstarter campaign to help fund the film's making, and I'm so pleased it's finally here and getting great reviews.  Of course, anything involving Ms. Hanna is going to knock my socks off, including this interview at The Daily Beast

- In other badass feminist news, remember a couple weeks ago when I mentioned the Riot Grrrl collection at NYU's Fales library is getting its own book?  Guess what, it's available for pre-order now, and there are a limited number of autographed copies.  I ordered as soon as I could so I hope when my copy arrives in June I'm on one of the lucky readers who gets a signed copy.  

- I always say that living in Baltimore could be worse.  At least it's not Detroit.  Or Cleveland.  Or any place in New Jersey.  Now I have proof - Baltimore did NOT make Forbes' list of the 20 most miserable cities in the U.S.  Take that, everyone!

- I've scouted several new-to-me blogs that are pretty amazing and align closely with the themes I try to cover at the Makeup Museum.  Part Nouveau looks at the art historical influences in fashion, while Where Art Meets Fashion examines fashion companies' use of artist collaborations.  (I want to ask the author for a copy of her Masters thesis, which "looked at the proliferation of collaborations between contemporary artists and luxury brands over the past 10-15 years, arguing that such partnerships have evolved into strategic brand alliances used as a marketing tool in order to achieve both cultural and commercial objectives for both the brand and artist (as a brand) alike."  It sounds like this could provide the foundation for an exploration of cosmetics companies' collaborations with artists, which I write about a lot.)  And The Glamourologist provides a truly unique perspective on cosmetics history and vintage makeup, as it's written by a trained archaeologist.

- Other things I'm digging include After Lately (I swear it's even funnier than Chelsea Lately) and Ben & Jerry's new Chocolate Peppermint Crunch ice cream.  I ate the entire pint in 24 hours last week and fully intend to devour another pint this weekend.

On the beauty front:

- On the heels of the Makeup Museum's Sweet Tooth exhibition, Chapstick has dreamed up a "Cupcake Creations" line, and the full information for MAC's Baking Beauties collection has been released.

- I'm endlessly fascinated with the illustrations on Tokyo Milk's bath and body products.  Now they've introduced these gorgeous designs onto makeup bags.

- You know how much I love mermaids and how I was crazy for Deborah Lippmann Mermaid's Dream nail polish last year.  Well, the brand decided to expand on that shade and is making 4 new polishes similar to it in different colors.  They'll have the same type of glitter and shimmery finish, but will come in peach, purple, pink and blue.  And they all have mermaid names!!  MERMAAAAAAAAIDS!!!!

- While that news is great, there is even greater news.  What's better than mermaids for the Curator?  That's right, Babos!!  And there's a new one coming out which we have just ordered. BAAAAABOOOOOS!!

(image from uglydolls.com)

Can't wait for him to arrive!!

What have you been into and up to this week?

Quick post: Mad Men for Estee Lauder, continued

I was a tad underwhelmed by Estée Lauder's collection in collaboration with the TV hit Mad Men last year.  I had high hopes for the second installment of this collaboration this year.  While it's a bit improved design-wise and includes 3 pieces instead of two, I still feel it's fairly unimaginative.

The collection consists of a lipstick in Pinkadelic, nail polish in Pink Paisley, and blush in Light Show, which comes in an enameled compact that is a "replica of actual designs from Estee Lauder's '60s era collections."

(image from esteelauder.com)

I think the pattern evokes late '60s psychedelia and I love the retro shape of the nail polish bottle.  However, it's maddening (haha) that nowhere in the advertising campaign does Estée Lauder show the original design.  I can't be the only person who would like to see it, and I'm sure Estée has it in their archives somewhere if this really is a replica.  Since they're not revealing it, I question their claim that the pattern is an authentic vintage Estée print.  Seeing the original would definitely make me want to purchase the compact.  Without it though, this seems to be a weak attempt to make what's possibly a brand new design appear to have a connection to the company's history - it's just smoke and mirrors.

As I said last year, the company could have done more with the Mad Men tie-in.  It's a shame Estée squandered the opportunity. 

What do you think?

(Vintage) Couture Monday: Les Coromandels de Chanel

When I did the group portrait of the Makeup Museum's Chanel palettes, I realized I never posted about the lovely Coromandels de Chanel, which was released all the way back in the fall of 2005.  Meant to evoke the lacquered Chinese screens lovingly collected and displayed in Coco Chanel's Rue Cambon apartment, the palette consists of three horizontal bands of bold color imprinted with gold patterns.  Here is the full description from Vogue Australia.  "Imagine a journey, a very long journey, from the Ming Era to today…Starting in Asia, at the heart of Imperial China, it continues along the Indian coast of Coromandel until reaching Paris, rue Cambon, and ending at the apartment of Mademoiselle Chanel.  The link between the two worlds and eras resides in the singular art form of Chinese screens: Coromandels. Objects of passion for Coco Chanel, these famous lacquered screens-extremely fashionable in the 18th century – have now inspired Heidi Morawetz and Dominique Moncourtois in the creation of the star product for Autumn 2005: Coromandels de Chanel...With its antique frieze, olive branches and decorative scrolls 'engraved' in the pressed powder, Coromandels de Chanel resembles a screen fragment in the black frame of its laquered case. The precise and delicate motifs that decorate the surface take up the relief and colour of an illustration on one of Gabrielle Chanel’s screens.  With this creation, past and present have been brilliantly combined with art and innovation. Coromandels de Chanel not only draws from the immense heritage of Mademoiselle, it is also a modern breakthrough. Using laser technology, an electronic arm controls a laser beam to polish, colour and create 'incision' motifs on the compact powder. In line with the original screens, the palette offers a matte satin texture for a velvety skin result that is more powdery than shiny and as luminous as ever."








In a quote from one her biographies, Coco Chanel states:  “I’ve loved Chinese screens since I was eighteen years old…I nearly fainted with joy when, entering a Chinese shop, I saw a Coromandel for the first time…Screens were the first thing I bought.”  Over the years she amassed 32 screens, and her apartment at 31 Rue Cambon contained 8 of them.  She used them as wallpaper and also to conceal doorways.  "Mademoiselle Chanel hated doors," Chanel archivist Odile Babin stated in an interview with NPR.  "She hoped that by placing the [the screens] in front of the door, her guests might not remember to leave."  (Coco Chanel used the apartment only for entertaining and work - she actually slept and took meals at a private suite at the Ritz across the street.)

As for the artistry of the screens themselves, the Chanel website has this to say.  "The Coromandel lacquer technique emerged at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), in the Hunan province, in the heart of China. The major themes include mythology, scenes of imperial life and love of nature, which bestow a spiritual dimension upon the art form."

The descriptionof the palette says that the patterns were taken after one of the screens owned by Mademoiselle Chanel.  While I couldn't find a picture of an exact match pattern-wise, the overall feel and colors are similar.  Below are some of the screens installed in her magnificent Rue Cambon abode.


(images from thecoveteur.com)

(image from hookedonhouses.net)


While I didn't see a match for the designs on the screens, you'll notice that the gold Greek-like pattern on this coffee table does match the one in the middle of the Coromandels palette.

(images from chanel-news.chanel.com)

So we have an explanation for the inspiration behind the palette, and the design does in fact align very closely with the beautiful screens owned by Coco Chanel.  However, I'm puzzled as to why the company decided to release this collection in the fall of 2005, when the pieces shown in the runway and couture shows displayed no Asian/Chinese influence whatsoever.  Unlike the more recent Byzantine and Versailles palettes, which were released in conjunction with particular fashion collections, Coromandels had nothing to do with what walked down the runways for both the fall 2005 ready-to-wear and couture collections.  Even the makeup wasn't remotely related to the theme of Coromandels.

Some pics from fall 2005 ready-to-wear:


(images from vogue.co.uk)

And here's some from the couture show:

(images from vogue.co.uk and vogue.com)

(images from elle.com)

Perhaps it's because this palette was released before Peter Philips took over as Creative Director of Makeup in 2008 (and sadly, will be stepping down shortly).  Prior to his leadership, seasonal makeup collections were devised by Heidi Morawetz, director of the makeup creation studio, and Dominique Moncourtois, international director of makeup creation.  While the palette is certainly inspired, it may have been more timely had it been released in 1996, when Lagerfeld designed his Coromandels evening dresses. 

(image from thecityreview.com)

Still, I can't begrudge Chanel too much in their lack of cohesion between the fall 2005 makeup and fashion collections.  Les Coromandels is a gorgeous and creative palette, and remains one of the Curator's favorites from Chanel. 

What are your thoughts?