Curator's Corner, 9/20/2014
Fall 2014 color trend

Exhibition recap: "Praise of Complexion" at Makeup in New York

Last year I made a pilgrimage up to Manhattan to catch the exhibition of vintage lipsticks at the Makeup in New York show.  This year I realized I had to go back for the 2014 show since it featured an exhibition of vintage compacts and powder boxes. 


The banner was cool but I'm laughing at the date typo at the top.  Those June dates were for the 2014 Makeup in Paris show.  Whoops.


Inside there was a directory, which in hindsight I should have looked at before blindly wandering upstairs. I walked around the 2nd and 3rd floors before realizing the exhibition was on the 4th floor.  I was just so eager and there weren't any maps being given out like last year.


I made it!  I think there might have been an issue with this banner too, although this time I think it's a translation issue rather than a typo.  In the directory banner and online the exhibition is referred to as "Praise of Complexion" while on the exhibition banner it says "An Ode to the Complexion".  Oh well.  I think perhaps they were just re-using the name of the 2012 Guerlain-sponsored exhibition, which featured many of the same items.


Exhibition view:


The tall handsome man on the far right holding a coffee cup and politely pretending to be interested is the husband.  Isn't he sweet to come with me to the exhibition?


So let's get started.  I didn't take pictures of every object but I did get a nice selection.  These two ladies greeted me by the front door.  They're papier maché powder boxes from 1920.



By the windows there was a great lineup, starting with some oddly surrealist powder boxes.

Dressing-Table and Piano-compacts


There were some lovely French 18th-century-inspired compacts and boxes from the 1920s.  So even in the '20s companies were doing the retro packaging thing.


This display of Bourjois boxes was pretty cool.


Bourjois label

I was thinking that if I ever did a bird-themed exhibition I'd definitely have to have a peacock display.  Looks like Praise of Complexion beat me to it!  The top box from Nylotis is from 1920 while the other box and compact are from 1930.


These two 1962 Heaven Sent compacts by Helena Rubinstein are so cute.  The one on the left would be perfect for a holiday exhibition.


Here's the famous "Golden Gesture" compact by Volupté from 1945.  (Why yes, that IS a Babo iPhone case.  Come on, did you really expect me to have something else?)


Here's a bakelite bangle containing powder flanked by two lipsticks (1928).


As we know, celebrity collabs are nothing new.  Check out these compacts featuring the A-list performers of their time.




There were also some quite fancy compacts on display that seem to be closer to the objects at the Ultra Vanities exhibition.  On the left is a 1945 gold and silver compact encrusted with rubies by Boucheron and on the right is Hermès (1960).


I think what I enjoyed most though were the really old boxes, like these French ones from the 18th century.



The small one at the top has a picture of Marie Antoinette on the outer side of the case.



I was curious to know whether these selections were from a book, and indeed they were.  This book is from 2012 but doesn't seem to be available for sale anywhere, which is a shame as it also was the impetus for the aforementioned Guerlain exhibition.  :(


I didn't dare touch the book in the display, but I tried picking up the copy laying on the table to flip through it, only to find that the back cover was adhered to the table with putty.  Respectful exhibition goer that I am, I took it as a sign that no one wanted it to be moved so I just perused it carefully while it was still laying flat.  Not 10 minutes later I glanced back and it was gone.  And NO, I didn't steal it!  I'd be pissed if it were my exhibition and someone walked off with a copy of a book that was deliberately not supposed to be moved.  I couldn't believe someone just snatched it.  It's not like it could be mistaken for a free catalogue - there was only 1 besides the one standing upright in the display.  Plus someone took the time to adhere it to the table with putty, indicating that you should only flip through it at the table.

Anyway, I thought display-wise it was a big improvement over last year.  The labels were more informative and better designed, and there were pretty floral patterns on the backgrounds of the cases holding the compacts.

After I was done drooling over the exhibition we wandered around and a couple of other things caught my eye.  Right behind the exhibition there was a booth from a company called Qualipac, which, apparently, was responsible for the spiky Louboutin nail polish bottle along with many other objects I recognized.


I asked the woman working there about the bottle and she said the Louboutin people were "very picky".  I thought that was pretty funny.  Then again, if they want people to shell out $50 for their nail polish they can't afford to put it in just any old packaging, right?  Plus I imagine beauty companies would have the upper hand in terms of choosing a packaging vendor, given the sheer volume of them I witnessed at this show, so I bet they can be as picky as they want.

I can't remember which company this was but I loved the little lipstick tree they had set up.


This is a terrible picture but you can sort of make out the really cool floral print nail polish bottle caps in the lower right.  I spied an array of wooden caps above too, so I'm speculating that this company (Pinkpac) may do the packaging for Sheswai.

Pink-Pac-nail polishes

I spotted something very interesting at this company's display.  If you look towards the middle-left you'll see two Tom Ford lipsticks (one burgundy, the other ivory) covered in a croc-patterned leather case.  I'm assuming this is just an example of what they would look like with leather casing and weren't actually put into production.  Still, I wonder if we'll see them at a later time?


I couldn't resist picking up a t-shirt - something that wasn't available last year.



There was also a bag like last year with bits of swag.  It had the same Pantone-esque collection of vendors and a pencil, but this year the pencil had glitter (ooh!) and there were also lipstick and nail polish samples.


So that's my tale from the 2014 Makeup in New York show.  I hope there's an equally cool exhibition next year. 

What are your thoughts?

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