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July 2013

Ultra Vanities Exhibition in London

I spotted this exhibition at British Beauty Blogger a couple of weeks ago, and while it just closed, I thought it was still worth sharing.  Back in May, Goldsmiths' Hall in London opened "Ultra Vanities:  Bejewelled Boxes from the Age of Glamour" which featured more than 200 cosmetic cases spanning over three hundred years, the bulk of which were made in the 1920s through the '70s.   To accompany the rise of the modern makeup industry, jewelry giants such as Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels and Boucheron introduced truly beautiful cases made from precious materials:  "The leading jewellery houses of the time created these unique 'nécessaire de beauté' for their fashionable clientele, who required somewhere to keep all their essentials. Miniature marvels with spaces for a powder compact, lipstick, comb, cigarette holder, mirror and, occasionally, a little note pad and pencil, they chart the changing styles through the decades, from the sleek, elegant Art Deco period to the flamboyant 1970s, via the colourful 1950s."  Exquisitely crafted using the skills of goldsmiths, enamellers and engravers, these compacts were indeed meant to be shown off. 

Let's take a peek at some of these beauties, shall we?  (And for a great essay on these and other pieces in the exhibition, check out curator Meredith Etherington-Smith's article in Apollo.  You can also buy the book, as I'm planning on doing!)  I was really blown away by the astonishing array of materials - not just gold and diamonds, but rubies, sapphires, jade, coral, mother-of-pearl, enamel and lacquer.

Jacques Cartier first visited India in 1911 and made many more trips to other Eastern destinations later.  You can see the influence in this Chinese-inspired design from 1925. 

(image from uk.blouinartinfo.com)

Lacloche was a leader in depicting Asian scenes and motifs in the Art Deco era, when the appetite for such styles reached frenzied heights in the Western world.


This 1950s piece by Charlton also has a touch of "exotic" inspiration between the triangle pattern and Egyptian scarab beetle in the center (at least, that's what it looks like to me - I could be totally off.)



According to an article on the exhibition, "the minaudière was invented by Charles Arpels of Van Cleefs & Arpels in 1934 after he saw a friend’s wife carry her make-up and several loose items in a tin box. He designed the minaudière to replace the evening bag."


Van-Cleef -Arpels-1930-open

Love this gold, sapphire and diamond stunner from Bulgari.

(images from historyextra.com)

I have no idea when this Van Cleef and Arpels piece is from or what the pattern is supposed to be (fireworks?) but it's gorgeous.

(image from uk.blouinartinfo.com)

Additionally, the first floor rooms at Goldsmiths’ Hall were transformed into a 1930s Parisian salon, complete with exhibition partner Guerlain pumping in their signature Shalimar fragrance to heighten the experience. 

(image from semperey.com)


While I take much pleasure in ogling all the shiny, glittering pieces in this exhibition purely as eye candy, it's important to remember that they also provide a meaningful glimpse of cultural and social history.  “This unique private collection marks and celebrates a precise era in the long history of cosmetics.  As such it is interesting not solely because of the exquisite workmanship and imagination of these boxes, nor the miracles of miniature engineering that went into their interior fitments but in showing the power these boxes still have to evoke a certain golden era in the long history of human beauty and adornment," Etherington-Smith said.

I so wish I could  have gone to see this exhibition!  I guess the book will just have to do.

Which piece is your favorite?  And could you see yourself actually carrying any of these?

Curator's Corner, 7/27/2013

CC logoSo many great links from this week and last...enjoy. 

- In beauty history:  Beautylish shares an overview of punk makeup, while Glamour Daze brings us the average woman's beauty routine from 1916.  And Beautiful With Brains provides another incredibly fascinating excerpt on skincare from a 19th-century magazine.

 - The Beauty Stop outlines five beauty trends best left to the runways (or, in the case of two-tone highlights and hair poufs, 2002 and the Jersey Shore, respectively).

- Meli at Wild Beauty dishes on her experience at the Bite Beauty lab in Soho.  Given her positive review and my affinity for staying at the Mondrian Soho when I'm in NYC, I think my next jaunt up to the Big Apple will have to involve a trip to the lab for a custom lipstick.

- Olivia at The Unknown Beauty Blog invents a little makeup game involving tarot cards.  I hope she keeps it up because it's tons of fun!

- Temptalia tells us all about the collaboration between OCC and artist Gail Potocki, which debuted at the San Diego Comic Con.  While green lips aren't exactly wearable except maybe on Halloween, I admire the thought that was put into the concept.

- Loved the story behind the old Revlon Fire & Ice campaign, along with the updated 2010 ad at Part Nouveau.

The random:

- I desperately want this beautiful mermaid print by Sam Battersby (bonus - it's got jellyfish too, another one of my favorite sea creatures!), thanks to the Jealous Curator.  Actually, I want, like, all of her mermaid prints.  They're small enough that I could probably fit them all somewhere.

- Speaking of mermaids, Bitch Flicks discusses whether the film Splash, which spurred my mermaid obsession as a child, is feminist or not.

- In other movie news, Clueless turned 18 this week.  I'm totally buggin'!  If you're so inclined, check out the nail art inspired by this classic '90s film.

- The Oatmeal provides some amusing commentary on distance running.

- Did someone say Pizza Olympics

- Must get to the Charmery, Baltimore's newest ice cream store, pronto.  In the meantime though, last week I made a delicious vanilla-honey ice cream to go on top of my very first pie!  I bake a lot but pie has always intimidated me.  Then I found these excellent posts by Smitten Kitchen and decided to go for it.  It came out pretty well, I think. The crust was a little overdone even though I used a pie crust shield, and I didn't realize I should put the crumbly topping on UNDER the lattice top instead of over it, but it was very tasty (sorry for the crappy cell phone pic):


- Finally, please say hello to the Makeup Museum's newest staff member, Mathlete Babo!  This was a total surprise from Uglydoll.


Mathlete Babo will be the Museum's senior accontant.  ;)

What's been up with you this week? 

E-bay finds featuring Shu and Sephora

As a collector, I'm forever trying to fill the gaps in the Makeup Museum's holdings.  Most of the time I look to E-bay to find long-lost products and vintage items.  So I thought I'd share two good recent finds today.

The first is the Seoul cleansing oil by Tsuyoshi Hirano for Shu.  I was initially sad that all three cleansing oils weren't going to be available in the U.S., then two of them were, but I was still bummed about the third one lacking in my collection.  Well, lo and behold it popped up on E-bay so I pounced.



Something I'm always on the hunt for are old Sephora catalogs.  I found this set of five from 2004 in excellent condition.  I'm still looking for any from 2005 and any from 2003 and earlier.


It was fun to go through and see what brands they had back then.  Remember Dessert by Jessica Simpson?


While I wasn't sad to see that brand disintegrate, I was a little disappointed when Sephora stopped selling Paula Dorf (it still exists, but Sephora dropped them ages ago.)  While it never knocked my socks off, for the most part this is a quality line.


And then we have this lovely Paul & Joe lipstick - too bad I wasn't collecting back then!


What's also fun is to see old trends and how much they get recycled.  For example, this is the cover of the fall 2004 catalog, and I feel like houndstooth is EVERYWHERE for fall 2013.


"Rich, warm cabernet" nails are always in for fall as far as I'm concerned.  It didn't photograph well but this shade, which was new back in 2004, isn't so different from all the oxblood we saw last fall.


Do you hunt for makeup on E-bay?  You do have to watch out for fakes, but I think it's pretty fun seeing what pops up.  

MAC Illustrated, part 2: Indie 184

“Graffiti has taught me so much to not only put myself out there even if what I do is not perfect but most importantly I learned how to be fearless and just go for it.” – Indie

(image from beyondmention.com)

The second part of MAC's 2013 Illustrated collection features the work of graffiti artist Indie 184.  Born in Puerto Rico to Dominican parents and raised in New York, her style combines vivid colors with a contemporary take on old-school New York City graffiti.  Her indomitable spirit is fittingly expressed in her tag, a riff on the movie adventurer Indiana Jones, while 184 comes from the street she grew up on in Washington Heights.

The first MAC bag shows off Indie 184's unique spin on a more traditional, "bubble"-style graffiti.  


The interior (which is the same design as the exterior of the other bag in the collection):


The design on the exterior is similar to the one that appears on a subway map she created for online gallery Etch-A-Sketch.net.

(image from etchasketsh.bigcartel.net)

Or one of her many tags throughout New York:

(image from tumblr.com)

The second bag is more similar to her latest work on canvas.  As she is an admirer of Basquiat and cites him as an inspiration, I can't help but wonder whether the halo and crown shapes are paying homage to him.  




While I appreciate the "bubble" graffiti approach, my love of color means that I'm most captivated by Indie's bright, multi-hued paintings.  She seamlessly translates her style from walls to canvas, weaving together images of famous women and phrases that convey their power.  In her artist's statement, she writes, "My creative process usually starts by pouring out conflicting ideas or emotions using words, images and color. When I create a painting, it’s like a page of my personal diary – all the pieces are worlds of personal declarations. Constant use of word play, found scraps of paper, stencil, graffiti, graphics and photographs mixed with vivid colors...I use iconic female imagery provoking mood and expression embellished with dripping paint juxtaposed with words...The composed painting reflects power, motivation and with an undeniable twist of feminism in my paintings."  The feminist angle, I believe, comes partially from her struggle to be fully accepted as a genuine graffiti artist in a male-dominated environment.  She says in an interview, "[A]s I got more into the culture, I learned that NYC in the 80’s produced few active girls in graf.  So any new girl in the scene would stand out. But of course, that did not mean free rides. I had to push harder to get down on walls. Most male writers don’t take females writers, especially new ones, seriously.  I did not want to stand out only because I was a female writer. I wanted to make my mark and represent for myself. Even now, on occasions, when I’m painting in the streets, some guy comes along and acts surprised when he sees me working with spray paint."

The titles for some of these paintings - Powerful Creation, Call the Shots, Fearless, Knock 'em Out and Own Your Power, combined with Indie's signature hearts and stars - further drive home the idea of feminine strength.  Some of her work is also a tribute to Latina women and a demonstration of allegiance to her cultural heritage, as she references figures such as Frieda Kahlo, Jennifer Lopez and Marquita Rivera.

Call the Shots, 2012 (I love the nod to Warhol represented by the soup cans):


Powerful Creation, 2012:


Fearless, 2012:


Knock 'em Out, 2012:


Own Your Power, 2013:

(images from indie184.com)

Looking at the dizzying array of flashy colors, it's no surprise to find that Indie's heroines include Jem and Rainbow Brite.  I also find her work to be a true expression of her outspoken, feisty personality and thoroughly unselfconscious attitude.  In an interview regarding her recently launched clothing line named Kweenz Destroy, she states, "Kweenz Destroy is for ladies who hold their own and make an impact with what they do. They love to get their hands dirty and don’t give a shit what people have to say...I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone...I am fulfilling my own desires, not living other people’s ideal of what a graffiti writer should be, because at the end of the day people are going to talk shit regardless."

Overall, I like Indie's work - it's brash, highly personal and has an exuberance and freshness to it while remaining forceful.  And I was pleased to see she's left-handed, given my fascination with southpaws.

What do you think?  Do you like Indie 184's work more than that of Fafi (a graffiti artist that previously collaborated with MAC)?

A brief history of faux freckles

At a recent trip to the dermatologist, I asked if there was any treatment that could lighten the freckles I have dotting my face.  Many of my formerly cute, small freckles are quickly becoming larger, unattractive splotches (a.k.a. "age spots") so I thought it would be better to nip them in the bud.  (Of course, I could just buy a bejeweled elephant brooch to distract from them.)  The experience jarred my memory of Lancôme releasing a "freckle pencil" many years ago that would allow one to paint one's face with as many specks as they wished.  With that, I thought I'd look into the history of freckles from a beauty standpoint, starting in the 20th century, with an emphasis on the rise of creating faux freckles with makeup.  I found  that, much like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, they've been going in and out of style (but they're guaranteed to raise a smile).

From the late 19th through the early 20th century, freckles were seen as unsightly blemishes that needed to be banished from the complexion, as demonstrated by this Pond's Vanishing Cream ad from1910.

(image from vintageadbrowser.com)

Some ads, like these for a potion known as Othine, were downright harsh - freckles are "homely" and shameful.  These are from 1914 and 1928.

(images from flickr.com and cosmeticsandskin.com

Perhaps the most well-known freckle antidote was Stillman's Freckle Cream.  Below are ads from 1925 and 1934.

(images from tothetwenties.blogspot.com and flickr.com)

Stillman's continued selling their freckle cream throughout the 20th century and, oddly enough, the company exists today (although they mostly sell an alternative lightening cream to the Middle Eastern market).  Here's an ad from 1956 and a picture of their contemporary freckle cream. 

(images from cosmeticsandskin.com and facebook.com)

I can't explain exactly how or why a shift occurred in the perception of freckles, but somewhere in the mid to late 20th century they became acceptable and even desirable (see this article for possible reasons).  Perhaps the rise of the tan's popularity was a factor - as early as the 1950s, tans correlated to health and a life of leisure, and a byproduct of spending quality time in the sun is the production of freckles.  By the '90s, freckles were also linked to a more youthful appearance, an association that continues over 20 years later. 

It seems that Chanel was the first company to market a product designed to create faux freckles.  Released in 1995, Le Crayon Rousseur was "part of Chanel's effort to gain a high-fashion profile," according to Chanel's then market development manager Timothy Walcot, who added that "the `little girl' look is quite in. This is intended as a bit of fun."  The instructions that came with the pencil recommended that it be used to "emphasize a light tan" as well. 

Indeed, freckles quickly became a symbol of a carefree summer spent lounging under the sun's rays, as this Lancôme ad from 1995 can attest.

(image from style.com)

Lancôme followed in Chanel's footsteps 8 years later by releasing a Freckle Crayon as part of their summer 2003 collection.  The mind behind the pencil, then artistic director Ross Burton, declared that "freckles are a symbol of freedom".  Instead of trying to hide their spots with several inches of caked-on foundation, women were encouraged to "free" themselves from makeup and embrace their natural skin.  And, of course, they were again associated with a summer vacation:  "The natural, sun-kissed look is set to be big for spring/summer,'' stated a Lancome beauty counter rep.  The company wasn't necessarily trailblazing - freckles had been "in" at least since 2001, when celebrities like Lucy Liu and top models Maggie Rizer and Devon Aoki proudly displayed their spots.

Sephora followed suit some time later, releasing a "My Lovelii Freckles" pencil as part of their now-defunct Piiink line.  In the spring of 2009, makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury used a MAC lip pencil to draw dots on the models' faces for Matthew Williamson's spring 2009 runway show.

(image from style.com)

Each year since then, faux freckles made an appearance in at least one runway show.  Let's take a look at some examples.

A model right before Rachel Comey's spring 2010 show:

(image from lederniercri.it)

Chloe Fall 2011 (also by Charlotte Tilbury):

(images from style.com)

The trend grew by 2012, where faux freckles dotted the faces of models at the spring shows for Jeremy Scott, Dsquared, Emmanuel Ungaro, D&G, and Donna Karan. 

Donna Karan, where Tilbury struck again. 

(images from elle.com)

Dsquared and Emmanuel Ungaro:

(images from makeupforlife.net and beautyeditor.ca)

Jeremy Scott:

(image from beautylish.tumblr.com)


(images from foros.vogue.es)

By 2013, freckles had firmly established their role as an anti-aging strategy.  "According to makeup pro Ruth Crilly, the easiest way to keep your youthful visage is to fake a few freckles," states an article at Refinery29.  Adds Pixiwoo.com makeup artist Sam Chapman, "There’s something youthful and fresh about freckles."  The spring 2013 shows further cemented the trend, with freckles proving especially popular at London Fashion Week (where, notably, Tilbury referred to the MAC pencil she uses to create the freckles as a "youth stick".)

Kinder Aggugini:

(images from elle.com)

Antonio Berardi (the makeup was done by Gucci Westman, who also allegedly painted on fake freckles for both Rag & Bone's spring 2012 and 2013 shows - however, the models' complexions looked totally clear in the pictures I found.)

(images from fashionising.com)

Moschino Cheap and Chic:

(images from fashionising.com)

Holly Fulton:

(images from makeupforlife.net and thelookbookphilosophy.com)

Pucci Fall 2013:

(images from fashionising.com)

Lisa Perry Fall 2013 - makeup by Westman (I'm beginning to think both she and Tilbury are a little obsessed with freckles!):

(image from socialvixen.com)

However, the addition of faux freckles isn't solely to give a youthful touch.  At many shows, fake spots served an additional purpose:  giving the overall look a retro twist.  Tilbury cited the styles of Anita Pallenberg and Charlotte Rampling for the slightly '70s look she created at Chloe's fall 2011 show.  For the 2012 D&G show, Pat McGrath said her inspiration came from a '60s style icon:  "The look is all about the girls looking beautiful. We were looking at photos of Talitha Getty...the way she looks with the beautiful eyebrows and the freckles and fabulous eyes and we've done a very modern, fresh version of that."  And MAC makeup artist Andrew Gallimore created a “cool California L.A. 50’s girl with a toasted tan, summer freckles, and a sunblock-neon lip” for Holly Fulton's spring 2013 show.

Meanwhile, Westman referred to several '90s types for her work at various spring 2013 shows.  For Antonio Berardi, she says, "The Antonio Berardi girl is sporty, very clean and fresh...a girl reminiscent of a 90s Helmut Lang girl...we used Brown ColorStay Eyeliner to add freckles which gave the girls a youthful look."  For Rag and Bone, she was inspired by "the iconic supermodels of the 90’s and the great structure of their brows."  She adds, "I kept the makeup very pure, adding just a touch of natural flush to the lips by mixing two lip products together, and I used a brow pencil to create subtle freckles and a dramatic brow to top the whole look off.”  Finally, for Lisa Perry, Westman went further back in time to the '60s: - "I focused on the eyes and went for something retro...I kept the skin simple and natural and created subtle freckles on the nose with a nude pencil."

Despite the popularity of freckles on the runway, there has been some ambivalence in the beauty community as to whether it translates to the real world.  While in May 2013 Refinery29 was touting freckles' seemingly miraculous anti-aging properties, just a year and a half prior they were asking their readers whether they'd embrace the trendThe Gloss asked whether it was even appropriate to try to poach something that occurs naturally in many peoples' skin.  Says the author, "This trend reminds me of my redheaded high school friend who despised bottle redheads, or my glasses-wearing friend’s rancor towards people who wore prescription-less glasses."  As of spring 2013, The Gloss is definitively in the no-fake-freckle camp

Additionally, the fact that makeup companies have not recently seized the opportunity to cash in and re-introduce freckle pencils might point to a dislike of, or perhaps disinterest in, the fake freckle trend.  The lack of freckle pencils on the market could also be in part the result of Tilbury's and Westman's divulgence of the exact products they use to create a speckled effect, which already exist - it would be difficult to convince people to buy a new, specialized product when they can already buy something that would give the same look.  Similarly, there's a wealth of tutorials on how to draw fake freckles using a variety of products, from eyebrow pencils to self-tanner painted on with a tiny brush.

My final thoughts:  Personally, I'm indifferent to natural freckles.  Some people have them, some don't, and I don't think people are more or less attractive because of them.  I never really noticed mine, even, until Lancôme came out with that pencil!  Now that they're getting bigger and starting to take over my face due to ever-advancing age, I'm more aware of them, but overall they're just another part of one's face.  My indifference to real freckles means that I do find it strange that people would want to fake them, as I don't see them as a beauty trend one way or the other.  They just...exist.  Still, the makeup junkie in me can understand fake freckles - theoretically, it's not really much different than partaking in other makeup application.  Why does anyone wear blue eyeshadow or paint their nails?

What do you think of both naturally-occuring freckles and the drawn-on ones seen on the runways?  And what do you think caused the shift in the past 100 years from their perception as ugly blemishes to indicators of youth?  Have you ever or would you paint on some fake specks?

MAC Illustrated 2013, part 1: Anja Kroencke

MAC began their "Illustrated" series last year, where the company teamed up with several talented graphic artists (Julie Verhoeven, Nikki Farquharson and François Berthoud.)  This year MAC revisits the collaboration idea by working with three artists:  Anja Kroencke, Indie 184 and Rebecca Moses.  I'll be covering the latter two shortly but for now let's take a look at the bags designed by Austrian-born, New York-based fashion illustrator Anja Kroencke.

Kroencke's depictions of women are characterized by graceful, elongated necks and voluminous, often intricately detailed hair.  These elements distinguish Kroencke's work from that of other fashion illustrators by harmoniously combining boldness and delicacy, romanticism and strength.  Says the artist, "It's a mix of all kinds of women I see on the street, in movies, in magazines--but they are all strong and yet very feminine and vulnerable, sometimes even fragile but showing a strength that comes from within, the expression of the face, the pose, being in charge of their own life not dictated by fashion, society or men."




I'm particularly drawn (haha) to the short, deft strokes she uses for the irises of the girls' eyes.


Kroencke cites artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Elsa Schiaparelli and Frida Kahlo as inspiration, and acknowledges the influence of her upbringing in Vienna and her parents' Scandinavian and Bulgarian aesthetics.  She also states, "I was always drawn to a more graphic, bold style.  I love simplicity, which is actually very difficult to achieve, and developing tension in a drawing or painting through a strong composition and color palette."

I picked out some favorites from her vast portfolio.  I love the color combinations that appear in the ads for Claire's Accessories:

(images from issuu.com)

(image from ua-net.com)

Her illustrations for high-end designers are imbued with her signature elegant necks and billowing tresses, while still retaining the clothing's original elements. 

Louis Vuitton, spring 2012:

(images from anjakroencke.com and style.com)

Prada spring 2013:

Kroencke-PRADA-Spring 2013
(images from anjakroencke.com and style.com)

Some other favorites.



Vogue Nippon 2008:

(images from issuu.com)

Jill Stuart:


And I have no idea what this one is for, but I love it!

(images from ua-net.com)

Looking at these you can definitely see how Kroencke's work has evolved over the years, particularly her use of color.  "I always try to find interesting and rather unusual color combinations that can translate to the mood of the illustration.  My color palette is very much influenced by what is happening at that time in design, architecture and fashion...I remember in the late '90s it was all about midcentury modern, lots of olive green, mustard and blue-grey; currently I'm totally into black line drawings with sometimes only a few colors," she says in a recent interview.  Indeed, her latest work, including the illustrations she created for MAC, display this gravitation towards a simpler color palette.  She also notes that her work has gotten "darker in mood and in some ways, more personal, less commercial." 

While this particular collection didn't blow me away, I think Kroencke's style is well-represented in the MAC bags - when you see them, you know the women are hers. What do you think?

Not the SAMO: Basquiat and Addiction

Basquiat-samo(images from basquiat.com and bakedinny.com)

(Note:  I want to preface this post by saying that my references are a bit uneven - sometimes I include links, sometimes footnotes.  This is due to the enormous amount of information on the artist.  My inability to include everything on him and highlight only the sources I was able to access and that I thought were relevant has led to the need to use several forms of citation.  I hope that since this is a blog post and not a formal academic paper I will not be under much scrutiny.)

The works of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) have been garnering much attention in the art world recently.  The Gagosian Gallery saw record attendance for their Basquiat show earlier this year, while one of his paintings fetched $48 million at a Christie's auction in May.  There's even a Broadway musical about him in production.  This rekindled interest may be part and parcel of a larger cultural trend:  a revisiting of Manhattan's grittiness in the late 70s and early 80s and the burgeoning underground movements therein.  Punk's fashion roots were examined by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Chaos to Couture exhibition and proved to be significant inspiration for many designers' fall 2013 collections.  Graffiti is also having a moment:  in addition to the Basquiat collection, MAC has teamed up with contemporary graffiti artist Indie 184, while Smashbox collaborated with Curtis Kulig for their spring 2013 collection.  Basquiat both represented and helped defined that era in New York City when punk, hip-hop and graffiti were blossoming.

Fittingly, for their summer 2013 collection Japanese department store brand Addiction released several palettes featuring three of Basquiat's paintings.  While the website doesn't fully explain how the collaboration came about or what spurred the brand's founder to pursue it, it is right on trend.

Basquiat, born to a Haitian-American father and Puerto Rican-American mother in Brooklyn, moved away from home at the age of 15.  At 17 he was tagging buildings under the name SAMO, an abbreviated version of "same old shit".  Soon after he shifted his method to paint on canvas while still retaining some of his urban style. By the time he was 21, his work was one of the most highly sought-after both domestically and internationally.  (Read an excellent bio here.)

As for this collaboration, I managed to pick up two of the three limited-edition palettes:  Mudd Club and Black or White. 


Mudd Club, named after the club Basquiat frequented in his late teens and early 20s with his band The Grays, has for its outer casing the design Basquiat produced for his only musical recording entitled Beat Bop.  A reference to his lifelong love of jazz, the album cover displays many of Basquiat's signature motifs:  a crown, text (some of which is crossed out), and bones.  LACMA's Curator of Contemporary Art Franklin Sirmans describes the cover and song: "...[I]t was the subject of bebop that found reasonance most particularly in paintings like Trumpet, Max Roach, Now's the Time, and Horn Players...focusing on the bebop generation of artist, also a subject Basquiat and Fab [Five Freddy] tangled on, these paintings give visuality to the aural invention of the master jazz players.  Not coincidentally, Basquiat named his one musical recording 'Beat Bop'...[it's] a nightmarish conversation piece, spat, chanted and incanted by Rammellzee...over the dense and often nasal rhymes is a deep, moody, industrial soundscape of brooding rhythms and disjointed melodies.  It is a New York City filled with poverty, violence, and apathy across class lines.  Yet...the song bears witness to the rumblings, underground, of a creative flowering the likes of which New York City may never see again."1 You can listen to the track here.

Here is a copy of the original album:

(image from ikonltd.com)

And the Mudd Club palette:




"I cross out words so you will see them more; the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them."2 - Basquiat

I will discuss Basquiat's crown symbol later, but for now I want to focus on his use of words in his paintings.  He was, in short, a master at combining text and images.  Since I can't do it justice I will leave it to National Gallery of Canada Director and CEO Marc Mayer to illuminate Basquiat's genius at this.  "In purely plastic terms, Basquiat integrated text into his pictorial project more successfully than any other artist of his generation, perhaps because of the harmonious affinity of written and drawn marks produced by a single hand...they recall the scat singing of his beloved jazz, except in recognizable words (and paint).  And yet they announce themselves to be, and even feel like, real information.  Quite a few of Basquiat's paintings and a great many of his drawings are thick with words that appear related to each other logically, but that never choose to progress beyond the state of raw expression and teasing suggestion."3

The bones on the right are repeated throughout many of Basquiat's work, stemming from the copy of Gray's Anatomy he received as a child while he recovered from a car accident (his aforementioned band is also named for this tome).  Some scholars see the bones as a preoccupation with death; others view them as a reference to the Maasai peoples' use of bones in their art.  

Let's move on to the Black or White palette, which has Basquiat's 1982 work Sugar Ray Robinson as its design.




Here's the painting:


Like jazz, pugilists were a consistent theme in Basquiat's work.  That same year he paid homage to Cassius Clay:


Jack Johnson:


And "Jersey Joe" Walcott:

(images from mantlethought.org)

Finally, the one palette I wasn't fast enough to buy before it sold out was Soda Lunch, which features Basquiat's Pez Dispenser (1984):

(image from cosme.net)

(image from tumblr.com)

I was a little confused by both the subject and the title, until I read this:  "Basquiat's production in the mid-1980 displays a pronounced emergence of Pop icons, reminiscent of the early 1960s work of Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers, and Andy Warhol - all of whom featured comic book heroes, cartoon characters, popular celebrities, and references to art history, anatomy, and money in their paintings.  Basquiat primarily emphasized the symbols of childhood and juvenile popular culture, and his works contain hundreds of words derived from comics, cartoon characters, advertisements, junk food, and joke tricks."4 Thus, the cartoonish dinosaur coupled with a title that refers to perhaps the fundamental symbol of childhood - a pocket-sized candy dispenser in the shape of comic book heroes, cartoon characters or other child-friendly figures - point to the artist's fascination with these attributes.

All three of the works chosen for the palettes incorporate Basquiat's signature crown.  While used repeatedly in his works, this motif doesn't take on the same meaning in each - there are many different interpretations based on what else is going on in the painting.  The most common explanations are that Basquiat used the crown to identify his heroes, which makes sense when viewing the works that pay homage to Sugar Ray and other famous black figures5, or that he is crowning himself as king given the crown's visual similarity to the dreadlocks he often wore gathered on the top of his head.  Perhaps the most compelling theory is that the crown suggests a sort of supremacy over the earthly realm.  "The preponderance of halo or crown-like imagery in Basquiat’s oeuvre asserts a spiritual aspect to the work, but the specific meaning of this symbolism thus far remains largely unexplained. It should be kept in mind that his use of such symbolism changed over time. By 1982, Basquiat had more or less replaced the halo with a personalized, even trademark, image of a three-pointed crown. The crown often accompanied a figure but occasionally appeared on its own throughout the remainder of the artist’s career. The intent behind this symbol is revealed in the 1982 silkscreen on canvas called Tuxedo, in which a crown is the culminating image atop tiers of texts and images alluding to diverse political, historical, social, and cultural events. The crown hovering over manifestations of the temporal/phenomenal world signifies a 'going beyond,' or transcendence, as suggested by the numerous ladders and arrows leading up to it." (source). 

My final thoughts:  While I do wish there was a little more background provided at Addiction's website about the collaboration, I'm really impressed with this collection since the three works chosen are a good representation of Basquiat's work as a whole.  I also think that the choice of artist was excellent - not obscure but not as well-known as, say, Monet.  As with the NARS Andy Warhol collection, I wonder what Basquiat would have thought of his images appearing on cosmetics.  I find it unnerving and sad, however, that given the artist's untimely death at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose, one of his few posthumous retail collaborations is with a company named Addiction.  I had such a hard time naming this post - "Basquiat for Addiction" seemed to be in very poor taste!

What do you think?  Are you familiar with Basquiat and if so, did you like the pieces chosen for the collection?



1Franklin Sirmans, "In the Cipher:  Basquiat and Hip-Hop Culture," in Basquiat, ed. Marc Mayer (New York:  Merrell, 2010), 100. 

2 Quoted in Basquiat, ed. Rudy Chiappini (Milan:  Skira, 2005), 120.

3 Marc Mayer, ed., Basquiat, (New York:  Merrell, 2010), 54. For more on Basquiat's use of text, see the essay "Word Hunger:  Basquiat and Leonardo" by Jeffrey Hoffeld in Basquiat, ed. Rudy Chiappini (Milan:  Skira, 2005), 87-103.

4 Richard Marshall, "Jean Michel Basquiat:  Speaking in Tongues," Basquiat, ed. Rudy Chiapipni (Milan:  Skira, 2005), 60. For a firsthand account of collab with Warhol, see "Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Andy Warhol:  Collaborations" by Bruno Bischofberger in the same book.  For a discussion of Pez Dispenser, see this article

5 "Basquiat's canon revolves around single heroic figures:  athletes, prophets, warriors, cops, musicians, kings, and the artist himself.  In these images the head is often a central focus, topped by crowns, hats, and halos.  In this way the intellect is emphasized, lifted up to notice, privileged over the body and physicality that these figures - black men - commonly represent in the world.  With this action the artist reveals creativity, genius, and spiritual power." Kellie Jones, "Lost in Translation:  Jean-Michel in the (Re)Mix," Basquiat, ed. Marc Mayer (New York:  Merrell, 2010), 171.

Curator's Corner, 7/13/2013

CC logoThis week's links.

- UK chain Marks & Spencer introduces a Downton Abbey-themed makeup and bath and body range.  I'm  greatly amused as most middle/upper-class women wouldn't have painted their faces in that time period - at least, not until about 1925 or so, and I think the series' start took place in 1912. At least Marks & Spencer kept it relatively restrained by including lip glosses and balms in somewhat subdued colors, and the packaging is nice. 

- I would have loved to have sat in on "Beauty in a Digital World", presented by graduates of FIT's Master's degree program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management.  Wait, WHAT?!!  There's a whole Master's degree program for that?!  While I'm not sure I necessarily want another Master's, and despite the fact that I have no business background, I'm greatly intrigued by this program.

- People are very fond of reminding me that makeup doesn't last forever.  Vintage makeup expert Captain Spaceburger provides proof.  However, I don't think this is actually THAT bad, and I also think unused cream products can last for decades.  

- Lipstick Queen founder Poppy King will be launching new lipsticks for fall.  That's not earth-shattering news, but what I am interested in is the packaging:  "The Velvet Rope collection will include five lipsticks encased in retro gold tubes and blue velvet packaging, which is all a nod to the Hollywood glamour of the '40s."  Oooh!

The random:

- See, my '90s nostalgia isn't a bad thing!

- These pizza portraits are great, but I'd still probably want to destroy them by gobbling up every last slice.

- The Baltimore Fishbowl gives us the inside scoop on the favorite hangouts of the cast and crew of The Wire.

- While I don't think The Julie Ruin is quite as amazing as Bikini Kill or Le Tigre (so far, anyway), Kathleen Hanna seriously can do wrong in my eyes.  Love her so much!  Check out the video for "Oh Come On".  

- I'm trying to cut down on my Lululemon consumption since I just have so much stuff, but I spotted these new shopping bags at Lulumum and promptly went to buy something, anything, just to get one.  (I limited myself to some socks).  The sales woman went to put them into a regular shopping bag and I was like "No!!  I must have the Sea Wheeze bag!"  She was a little taken aback.


Yes, that is a mermaid perched on the logo and doing the mermaid version of Warrior pose.  MERMAIDS!!

How was your week?

MM Musings, Vol. 11: Photography in museums

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!



Above are two pictures I snapped with my phone (flash off, of course) at the Metropolitan Museum's "From Chaos to Couture" show back in May.  Promptly after I took the second one, a guard came up and yelled that no photography was allowed.  He literally raised his voice at me, his face turning purple, nostrils flaring.  I was not a happy camper, as 1.  there wasn't a sign posted at the beginning of the exhibition stating that pictures were prohibited; 2.  I paid the full "recommended" donation AND bought the exhibition catalog AND a t-shirt, not to mention I took time off work specifically to travel up to NYC to see the show - after I spent that much money at their museum, I think I'm entitled to take a few cell phone pics for personal use; and 3.  There was no reason for the guard to get so furious and make a scene - he could have just quietly, politely informed me that photos weren't allowed.  From his reaction, you might have thought I was snatching the clothes off the mannequins and trying them on myself.

This anecdote raises not only my blood pressure but the question of whether I would allow photos in the Makeup Museum if it occupied a physical space.  Obviously I'm leaning towards the affirmative, but I will explore both sides of the argument. 

First, let's take a look at why some museums prohibit photography of any kind.  In the "old" days, i.e., when I was a wee lass studying art history in college over a decade ago, most museums allowed photography as long as you took the flash off your camera.  The bursts of bright light and heat damage the pigments of a painting, helping them fade and deteriorate much more rapidly than they would otherwise.  However, in recent years I feel as though there's been a significant shift in museums' photography policy.  It seems that most museums now ban all photography.  Their top reasons:

1.  Taking photos creates even more congestion than there normally would be. With the ubiquitousness of smartphones, it's so much easier than it was previously to take a quick picture of something that catches your eye, which in turn equals more people stopping to take pictures.

2.  Visitors are "stealing" from the museum by taking their own pictures rather than buying a postcard or exhibition catalog from the museum store.   Picture-taking also reduces income because people will post these pictures online and this will result in fewer visitors - the rationale is that if people can access the image online, they won't have a reason to visit the museum in person.

3.  Legal matters.  Most museums don't own every piece of artwork that's on display.  If there's a special exhibition that has works on loan, the museum who loaned the works may not allow photographs of them.  Additionally, there's the issue of copyright infringement (read this balanced article on museums and photographing copyrighted pieces.) 

4. It's easier than saying "no flash photography".  I have no evidence to back this up, but my hunch is that museum directors simply decided to ban all photography due to people not knowing how to turn the flash off their camera or ignoring the rule of no flash.

Some bloggers, rather pretentiously, I might say, add their own ludicrous reasons:  it's "tacky" and turns museums into tourist traps; the clicking of the camera is distracting to those trying to quietly appreciate the art; it cheapens the museum experience by turning the works of art into mere photo props - people aren't looking at the art but rather only an opportunity for a picture.

Now, I want to counter these arguments and explain why photos in museums should be allowed.  (I still agree that the flash needs to be off - the camera sound isn't distracting but the light definitely is, and it could hurt the art). 

1.  Rooms with popular works of art and exhibitions will always be crowded.  The taking of pictures is the least of the problems with trying to get a glimpse of, say, the Mona Lisa.  I visited the Louvre and let me tell you, there were just as many people crowding around to view it as there were people taking pictures.  During the same trip when I went to the Musée d'Orsay, which strictly enforces its no-photography rule, I could barely see the work I was most excited about (Manet's Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) because of all the people.  They were surprisingly well-behaved - no one was attempting to break the photography ban - but the sheer volume of people meant you just had to wait until there was a small clearing to actually get a decent look at the painting.  Prohibiting photography is not going to lessen congestion.

2. Museum store merchandise doesn't always meet the needs of visitors.  During my Met visit, I bought the catalog but still took pictures of the exhibition.  You know why?  Because I wanted to remember the layout of the rooms and re-read the exhibition label text on the walls - things that aren't included in the catalog.  Also, people might want a shot of a particular piece that has meaning to them but because it's not a hugely popular work, there is no postcard or book with the picture available, and even the museum's website doesn't provide an online image.  Another example I can provide is when I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  I fell in love with all the stunning artifacts in the jewelry cases but did not take pictures, since there was a sign at the front of the gallery saying they were prohibited.  Oh well, I thought, I'm sure all this amazing stuff is in a book at their store.  But when I went to the store there was no jewelry collection book. This point is especially important to keep in mind for the so-called "tacky tourists" - I can't get on a plane and visit that jewelry exhibit whenever I please, so I would appreciate having a nice big book to remember it by, and if they don't sell one, I would at least like some crappy pictures I took with my phone.  It's better than nothing!  Finally, a postcard of the work of art you're interested in doesn't have you or your loved ones in it, nor does it fully capture a visitor's memory.  The reason people take pictures of themselves or their families and friends standing with a piece of art is because they want a reminder of that moment, of being able to look back and say, "Hey, I saw my favorite work in person!  There I am standing next to it.  How cool!"  Books, posters, postcards, etc. that you can buy in a store just don't do that.  I also suspect that most museum-goers will still buy store merchandise even if they have their own pictures.  It's meaningful to have pics you took yourself, but many visitors also love the high-quality, glossy images that only store merchandise provides. 

3. Legal matters.  Okay, I can't really argue with this.  If a museum allows photography of a work that's on loan by a museum that doesn't permit photos of that work, the borrowing museum could get in a lot of trouble.  A lawsuit could shut it down in one fell swoop.  So I understand museums need to err on the side of caution.  However, they need to make it very clear to visitors that some pieces or exhibitions are off-limits for photography.  In the case of my experience at the Met, would it have killed them to put some signage up indicating that taking pictures of that particular exhibition was forbidden?  If they had done that, most people, myself included, wouldn't attempt to take pictures.  Thus the guards wouldn't have to spend all their energy yelling at people taking pictures - they could protect the art from real damage, like the attack that recently occurred at the National Gallery in the UK.  I don't think it's coincidence that this museum doesn't allow pictures - the guards were probably too busy screaming at hapless tourists to notice a man trying to deface Constable's The Hay Wain.

4.  The times, they are a-changin'.  We are rapidly heading in the direction of an image-based culture.  While I don't think text will ever be fully replaced by images, it's important to accept the how much sway social media platforms like Instagram and Tumblr have both in the art world and society at large.   From ArtNews: "As a culture, we increasingly communicate in images. Twenty years ago, a museumgoer might have discussed an interesting work of art with friends over dinner. Today, that person is more likely to take a picture of it and upload it to Facebook...or perhaps that museumgoer might remix his or her photo with other visual elements and transform it into something new. Every day, users on image-sharing sites such as Tumblr create their own diptychs, collages, and themed galleries devoted to everything from ugly Renaissance babies to Brutalist architecture.  This transformation in the way in which people digest visual stimuli—not to mention the rest of the world around them—is something that Harvard theoretician Lawrence Lessig has described as a shift from 'read-only' culture (in which a passive viewer looks upon a work of art) to 'read-write' culture (in which the viewer actively participates in a recreation of it). The first step toward recreating a work of art, for most people, is to photograph it, which, ultimately, isn’t all that different from the time-honored tradition of sketching."  Basically, museum directors can't ignore the impact of modern-day picture-sharing.  Instead of trying to fight it and eliminate picture-taking completely, museums need to use new social media and technology to their advantage. One blogger sums it up best with his experience visiting the Grammy Museum, which bans picture-taking:  "I snapped some photos when nobody was looking. And I’m hardly alone – a Flickr or Google search will confirm that hundreds of pics of this place are online, despite their photo ban.  The lesson is this: With all the tiny digital cameras these days and even cell phone cameras, people will take photos in your establishment and they will end up on the Internet, whether you like it or not. There’s no use trying to fight it.  To me, museums that still ban photography are like record companies in the late ‘90s that opposed downloading.  Instead of embracing the technology and using that free publicity to their advantage, they stubbornly stick to an antiquated view that winds up being a lose-lose scenario for everyone involved."

Finally, I've already countered most of the concerns various bloggers have regarding museum photography, but I will address a couple more here.  I don't think allowing pictures "cheapens" the museum experience at all, nor does it prevent people from fully engaging with the art.  The author at the Everywhereist asks, "If everyone was snapping photos all around him, do you think Cameron [in the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off] could have had his moment in front of Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grand Jatte?"  The scene she is referring to is from a movie.  I'm sure the museum closed the gallery to the public that day in order for the camera crew to get the scene without anyone interfering.  Plus Cameron Frye is a totally fictional character and thus, so are his "moments".  Bottom line:  it's a moot point.

The Grumpy Art Historian says that "People taking photographs in museums is distracting.  Even non-flash photography can be a distraction, with those annoying electronic shutter sounds."  If that's the most annoying thing about visiting a museum to you, consider yourself lucky.  Personally, I find the hordes of hyperactive schoolchildren who don't understand why they're there, the occasionally inane comments loudly expressed by other museum-goers, or *shudder* people who actually try to TOUCH the artwork, to be far more irritating than the tiny click of a camera.  Eliminating cameras will not, unfortunately, cut down on other obnoxious behavior. 

The last article I want to address is one that appeared at the Guardian.  The author writes, "I was being jostled and pushed not by people anxious to get a better view of the art on show in one of the world's great museums, but by mobile phone owners rudely trying to ensure no one blocked their desired camera angle. They were there not to see and be inspired by artists of genius, but to take snaps to prove they were there."  First of all, for really popular works of art, people get jostled all the time - and not just by other people taking pictures.  Once again, prohibiting photography will not reduce crowds or rude behavior.  Secondly, who cares if they wanted a picture just to prove they were there?  Personally, I'd be flattered if people visited the Makeup Museum only to brag about it but not appreciate any of the items.  At least I got them in the door, and that's what matters.

My rough plan for the Makeup Museum's photography policy consists of the following:

1.  Allow photography for the general public for non-commercial use, but no flash or tripods will be permitted.  Additionally, a "one and done" policy will be in place, where if someone takes a picture with their flash on, they get a warning, and if they do it again they get thrown out of the museum. While it's still debated as to whether today's cameras have as damaging a flash as the flashbulbs used in older cameras, I don't want to take any chances.  Most of the Makeup Museum's collection consists of delicate powders whose colors can fade quickly without being hastened by flash photography. 

2.  Allow professional photography for bloggers and other members of the press, but they will need to pay for a press/photographers' pass.  This idea has been implemented with great success at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

3.  As for copyright and intellectual property, those are non-issues.  All of the objects in the collection are owned by me at the moment and were purchased when they were for sale to the public.  None are on loan from another person or institution.

What do you think both of my proposed outline for photography and non-flash photography in museums in general?   Have you ever gotten yelled at by a hostile guard for taking a picture, not knowing they were banned?