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January 2020

MM Musings, vol. 28: on legitimacy and the definition of a museum

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! 

Too legitAs I enter the 12th year of managing the Makeup Museum, I want to arrive at sort of conclusion as to its nature.  The purpose of this exercise isn't to determine once and for all what a museum is or isn't, but how the various criteria and definitions laid out to date can be applied to the project I've been spending every ounce of spare time on for over a decade.  The big question I want to tackle:  Is the Makeup Museum a museum?  If we examine the previous definitions and also consider what a museum is not, the answer is a resounding yes. 

What makes a museum, well, a museum?  Let's take a brief look into how various stakeholders across the globe have attempted to define it.  The most recent efforts came in July 2019, when the International Council of Museums (ICOM) proposed an updated definition for the one they had established in 2007.  The ensuing controversy and media coverage was actually the impetus for this installment of MM Musings.  ICOM's previously agreed-upon definition of a museum was as follows: 

“A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”

The new definition emphasized the need for inclusiveness and clarified that museums do not exist primarily to make money.

"Museums are democratizing, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artifacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people.

Museums are not for profit. They are participatory and transparent, and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary well-being."

ICOM's definition was met with a swift backlash. Many organizations decried it not only for being too "ideological"/"political" rather than a straightforward definition, but also because it didn't distinguish between museums, libraries or cultural centers. (But I don't think the old definition did either?  Also, what is a "polyphonic space"?  Still scratching my head on that one.)  In September, ICOM delayed their vote on the new definition with no new voting date scheduled. If the entire museum world cannot come to a consensus, obviously it's difficult to say how museums are defined.  Having said that, I'm not sure why we can't agree on a definition that essentially combines the old and new proposals.  Here's an excerpt from Time's coverage of the debacle in which a Danish curator states that it's not an either/or proposition.  "'As museums become more and more conscious of the strong social role they play, there’s a need for a more explicit platform of values from which we work,' says [Jette] Sandahl, who is the founding director of the Museum of World Cultures in Sweden and the Women’s Museum of Denmark. 'Saying that museums can only fulfill traditional functions or play these new roles is what I feel we’ve outgrown in the 21st century.' Sandahl wants that 'or' to be replaced with an 'and.' She also firmly rebukes the criticism that the new definition has a 'political' tone: 'When you say that something is political or ideological, well, is it political to work with marginalized communities and women, as many museums are doing now, or is it political not to?'" I'm fully aware of the #MuseumsAreNotNeutral concept, and I think it can be added to the old museum definition. Hell, you can just copy and paste like so:

“A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment. Museums are democratizing and inclusive spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artifacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people.  Museums are participatory and transparent, and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to enhance our understanding of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary well-being."

Was that so hard?  You're welcome, ICOM.  I'm kidding, obviously, but examining my combination of these definitions and seeing how it aligns with the Makeup Museum's activities demonstrates that the Museum meets the criteria outlined above, even if the art world can't be in perfect harmony. 

Is the Makeup Museum a "non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society?"  Check, check and check.  I've never sold anything and have never aspired to make money off the Museum, which is why you've never seen ads here.  I might need to pay for Google search ads down the line, but I won't ever have ads on the website. And while I recently experimented with a promoted post on Instagram, it was purely to increase the Museum's visibility in the face of some horribly unethical imitators who are actively trying to erase its presence.  Since I don't sell anything or have ads at the website, obviously I don't make any money off of "clicks" (i.e. more website traffic doesn't equal any sort of monetary benefit); I was only trying to raise awareness that there is an existing makeup museum in the U.S.  I can't even bring myself to do basic fundraising, and if the Museum occupied a physical space there would be free admission.  As for permanence, I've been running this site for over 11 years and collecting for even longer.  I don't anticipate stopping either activity soon, unless something really awful happens, so in that sense the Museum is permanent.  And while I enjoy collecting for my own sake, the whole point of being online/trying to establish a physical space, which has been a goal since the Museum's inception, obviously means this little space of mine is "in the service of society".  The internet is available 24/7 which means the Museum is always "open to the public".  The next part of the sentence, "acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment" and part of the third sentence, "hold artifacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations" is essentially the Museum's mission statement:

- 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 history, design, and artistic inspiration behind them.

- Explore the sociological and cultural impact of makeup objects, including their usage and advertising.

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

- Educate the public on the artistic, cultural, and historic value of makeup from all eras through exhibitions and publications.

The other salient words in the ICOM definitions, "democratizing", "inclusive", "participatory" and "transparent" may seem a bit empty and meaningless in that sometimes business and politicians throw them around with no real follow-through, but the Makeup Museum strives to be all of these things.  I'm very clear about how the Museum functions and where I obtain objects.  It's a unpaid gig run by myself (with help from the husband and plushie staff) and everything outside of donations from random people - NOT anyone working for or affiliated with makeup companies - is paid for with my own money.  I try to make sure the Museum is as "participatory" and "democratizing" as possible by laying out my ideas and asking the public to weigh in on what topics they'd like to see, and I invite comments on each post and exhibition.1  In fact, for the most recent exhibition I wanted to have a section for people to share their fond memories of Stila - alas, no one participated, but I plan on offering this feature for every exhibition going forward.  And I love the idea of visible storage, which is a way of democratizing the collection itself.

Does the Museum work on "acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present?"  Through discussing beauty's ugly side and recognizing the areas the industry still needs to work on, I'd say so.  Another idea I'd like to implement is including information in posts and exhibition labels on whether a particular brand or object is cruelty-free, or if the company producing it is controversial in some way.2 Does the Museum "work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to enhance our understanding of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary well-being"?  Yup. Whether it's the countless links in Curator's Corner that lead to articles about the struggles of the art/museum/beauty industries with representation and diversity, intersectional feminist critiques of current and past beauty trends, or explorations of an ethical and environmentally-friendly museum, I think the Museum continually checks all these boxes.  And as I mentioned in the past, inclusiveness and accessibility are topics to be covered in future MM Musing posts so as to lay out a concrete plan with specific steps to implement it.

Finally, I'd like to highlight that there's nothing in either of ICOM's definitions about a museum requiring paperwork stating it's a nonprofit organization or occupying a physical space. This brings me to another interesting point, which is the impact that online-only museums have.  I was informed in December by someone who shall remain nameless that my museum wasn't real because it doesn't have a physical space.  I wish I could somehow anonymously send her these articles about the advantages of online museums and how they can, in fact, be "real" experiences.  Not only that, they can provide much more in terms of participation, inclusiveness, engagement and customized experiences.  They're the wave of the future!  Don't get me wrong, I'd still like to have a physical space.  If some investor came along and offered to set one up for me entirely for free and without me having to lift a finger I'd do it - ideally the Museum would have both physical and online spaces.  But since I have to choose how to spend my time and money, right now I'd rather go the extra mile to make a really amazing online space that would blow any building right out of the water.

Another point to consider is that we might not be able to determine the exact criteria that makes a museum, but we know when one isn't.  The consensus among most museum professionals and the average museum visitor alike is that the new profit-driven organizations are not museums even though they have "museum" in their name.  I've written before about the "Instagram museum" and why these places aren't really museums, and as this article suggests I acknowledged what little worth they have and considered incorporating more shallow yet fun concepts into a blueprint for a physical makeup museum - I KNOW my idea for a makeup sponge pit sponsored by Beauty Blender would go viral - but at the end of the day, the online space I've set up is more of a museum than not, and it's certainly more of a museum than these entities that are really just businesses in disguise.

So if the Makeup Museum is real, does that make me a real curator?  Eh, honestly, I'd have to say the jury is still out.  As I surmised in 2014, most people see me nothing more than a collector and blogger.  Without a Ph.D. in art/related field or a degree in museum or curatorial studies, I'm not sure I could call myself a curator.  Still, if the Makeup Museum is a real museum and museums should have a curator in place to, at the very least, oversee the collection, what does that make me?  All I know is that in the 6 years since I discussed being a curator, I'm still considering the local curatorial practice MFA program that I mentioned in that post.  Perhaps if I took the plunge and actually got accepted into the program, I might be taken more seriously.  But that's a topic for another time.

In conclusion, after looking at various definitions and what a museum is not, I am now proclaiming the Makeup Museum in its current form is an actual museum.  With that, here is the new intro for MM Musings:

Makeup Museum (MM) Musings is a series that examines a broad range of museum topics as they relate to the preservation, research and exhibition of cosmetics, along with my vision for a physical Makeup Museum. These posts help me think through how I'd run things if the Museum occupied a physical public space, as well as examine the ways it's currently functioning. I also hope that these posts make everyone see that just because the Makeup Museum does not have a physical space or official nonprofit designation, it is as valid as other museums, and more legitimate than many other profit-driven entities calling themselves "museums". 

So what do you think about all this?  Is the Makeup Museum a true organization or is it as real as Santa Claus?

 

1 AAM's most recent issue of Museum magazine had a great article on how curators are trying to engage more actively with their local communities and ask people directly what they'd like to see for wall labels, exhibition topics and the objects included.

2It was Michelle Hartney's amazing "Correct Art History" piece that got me thinking about including some uncomfortable truths in exhibition labels. Indeed, the impact of her groundbreaking work spurred a worldwide conversation about museum wall labels.


Swan dive: Les Merveilleuses Ladurée holiday 2019 and more swan-themed makeup

Les Merveilleuses Ladurée holiday 2019, vintage swan down puff, Tetlow swan down powder

I'm thinking there has to be a vintage makeup fan among Les Merveilleuses Ladurée's design and marketing team, since their holiday 2019 collection carries on the tradition of yet another popular motif for beauty packaging:  the swan.  This graceful bird also ties into the company's commitment to infusing their line with the style introduced by the Merveilleuses.  Let's look at the collection and all its downy soft details. 

Can I just say how much I love the color scheme?  The blue is so perfect - not too bright, not too aqua, not too dark - and plays amazingly well against the pink and white of the makeup shades and swan imagery.  First we have the brightening powder.  The outer case depicts a swan holding a rose in its beak, while the powder itself is embossed with a white swan swimming in a pastel-colored lake.

LM Ladurée pressed powder, holiday 2019

LM Ladurée pressed powder, holiday 2019

Next is this beautiful set containing a double swan-embossed blush and lipstick, housed in a blue embroidered pouch with a tiny silver swan for the zipper pull.

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 makeup set

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 blush

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 makeup pouch

Lastly is the star of the collection, a white swan-shaped jar filled with blush "roses".   LM Ladurée is famous for their blush resembling rose petals, but these are next level.

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush jar

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush jar

I couldn't bear to open the blush itself, but it looks like this.

Les Merveilleuses Ladurée swan rose blush
(image from bonboncosmetics.com)

Even the box is gorgeously printed with pristine white swan feathers.

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush box

So how do swans relate to the Merveilleuses?  Prior to becoming Empress in 1804, Josephine was one of the most revered Merveilleuses, possibly even more so than Madame Recamier.  While the more over-the-top Merveilleuse trends generally died down after Napoleon rose to power, Josephine was still considered a top arbiter of style.  During her time as Empress she also adopted the swan as her signature motif.  According to the Met:  "At the approach of danger, with feathers puffed up and anxiously hissing, these birds protect their young within the wall of their white wings. Napoleon's consort, Josephine, and her children were frequently compared to a swan and its cygnets.  The swan was chosen as her symbol by Claude, wife of Francis I, the French Renaissance king whom Napoleon greatly admired."  Thus the reason for the abundance of swan decor at her and Napoleon's residence, the Château de Malmaison.   

Chateau de Malmaison - bed of Empress Josephine
(image from wikimedia.org)

Chateau de Malmaison, carpet in Josephine's room

Chateau de Malmaison, fresco in Josephine's room
(images from ssa.paris.online.fr)

Chateau de Malmaison - swan chair made for Josephine's bedroom
(image from the National Gallery of Victoria)

Washstand, ca. 1800-1814
(image from metmuseum.org)

The Empress even had black swans imported from Australia and kept them as pets, along with emus and kangaroos. Sadly the swans outlived her.  :(  Anyway, while the swan motif correlated more to the aesthetic of a post-Directoire era Josephine, its incorporation into LM Ladurée's holiday collection is a subtle nod to one of the original Merveilleuses. 

In addition to serving as one of the Empress's emblems, swans have a long history in the world of cosmetics, most likely since they are one of the symbols associated with Aphrodite/Venus, goddess of love and beauty.1  Vintage compacts with images of swans abound.2

Stratton swan compact and lipstick set

Stratton marcasite and enamel swan compact, ca. 1940s
(image from pinterest) 

This one has a really interesting history behind it, the Etsy seller dug up some great information on it.

Krank swan compact, ca. early 1930s
(image from etsy)

Kigu swan compact, ca. 1960s
(image from etsy)

Vintage Evans swan compact, ca. 1940s
(image from ebay)

Coty's "Golden Swan" sets were perennial holiday favorites from about 1950-1955.  I stumbled across some newspaper ads for them, and lo and behold this great blog on Coty's history had an actual photo.

Ad for Coty Golden Swans set, November 1953

Ad for Coty Golden Swans set, ca. 1950s
(images from newspapers.com and cotyperfumes.blogspot.com)

I couldn't find a real-life photo of this swan lipstick bouquet but it's fantastic.  I'm guessing they're copying and expanding on the concept of Max Factor's popular flower pot lipstick set, which debuted in 1969.

Ad for Loveland swan lipstick bouquet, November 1972_

I couldn't resist picking up a few vintage swan items for the Museum, including these adorable lipstick hankerchiefs  (ca. 1940s-50s) and a lipstick case (ca. 1980s).

Lamis King swan lipstick case, ca. 1980s

Lamis King swan lipstick case, ca. 1980s

I think this vintage powder jar may have been LM Ladurée's inspiration.  They came in a variety of colors, and the little niche created by the swans' wings was intended to store a lipstick.

Vintage swan powder jar

All of these are lovely, but Tetlow's Swan Down face powder and accompanying ads are my favorite vintage swan-themed pieces...and they don't even depict swans on the outer packaging!  Tetlow's Swan Down powder was introduced in 1875 and sold through the early 1930s. Collecting Vintage Compacts has a very thorough history of Henry Tetlow if you'd like to read more. 

I was so pleased to get this one in good condition for the Museum along with an original ad.

Tetlow Swan Down powder box, ca. 1910-1920

Tetlow Swan Down ad, 1917

While the one I have is in good shape, I'd love to own one of these boxes that still has the swan insert!

Vintage Tetlow Swan Down powder

Vintage Tetlow Swan Down powder
(image from cosmeticsandskin.com)

As was the case for many goods in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Tetlow's used small trading cards to advertise Swan Down. The portraits depict various stage actresses and other fashionable ladies of the time.  The fan shape is a nice touch.

Tetlow Swan Down powder trading cards, ca. 1880s-1900s

Tetlow Swan Down powder trading cards, ca. 1880s-1900s(images from worthpoint.com)

Another item I've become rather enamored of are vintage swan's down puffs.  Before the dawn of synthetic brushes and puffs, in the Western world swan's down was one of the most common materials to apply powder in addition to silk and lambswool. The swan's down really is incredibly soft! (I forgot to take a picture of the vintage puff I bought...stay tuned for an update.)

I would love to try it out and compare it to my softest squirrel hair brushes but it's so fragile I'm afraid it would get ruined.  And as I learned, vintage swan's down puffs are not cheap, especially the ones with sterling silver handles (drool).

Vintage swans down puff
(image from rubylane.com)

Fast-forward to the 21st century, when some more swan-themed items joined their vintage counterparts.  Here's what I'm sure is an incomplete group.  Also, I guess I should give an honorary mention to Etude House's 2015 Dreaming Swan collection, which oddly enough did not feature any swans on the packaging.

Swan themed makeup

  1. Who can forget the frenzy over the makeup for the 2010 film Black Swan? This kit contained each element of the look. 
  2. Monica Rich Kosann designed the Swan Dreams powder compact for Estée Lauder's holiday 2018 collection. 
  3.  Too-Faced's holiday 2018 Dream Queen set also featured swans.
  4. One can never have enough novelty lip glosses.
  5.  Sugar Cosmetics chose a swan for their clarifying sheet mask packaging.

Finally, here are the other contemporary swan treasures in the Museum's collection:  a Paul and Joe eyeshadow from their fall 2010 collection and Guerlain's spring 2018 Blanc de Perle compact, which was a collaboration with Ros Lee.

Guerlain Blanc de Perle and Paul & Joe eyeshadow

So that about wraps it up!  What do you think of the swan motif both for Empire-era decor and makeup?  Which piece here is your favorite?

 

 

1Swans are also associated with Apollo and music so that explains their inclusion in LM Ladurée's holiday 2017 collection, which shows them with a lyre.

2Tons of other vintage non-makeup beauty items use swans in their advertising and packaging, including Dior Miss Dior perfume, Cashmere Bouquet soap, Swan soap, and J. Lesquendieu face cream.  Obviously I want to keep the focus on makeup but they were worth a mention.


Makeup Museum ideas for now and the future

As I did back in January of 2016, I feel the need to discuss some ideas I've had rattling about in my head for quite some time.  I could basically copy and paste from that post since I didn't make any progress, but perhaps 2020 is the year I actually start tackling some of the bigger Museum projects I've wanted to pursue for so long.  Or not.  I'm not putting pressure on myself, especially since, as I've noted countless times, the necessary resources - research materials, time and money - are lacking.  The point of this post is to simply get down some ideas so that they can temporarily stop taking up so much room in my head and to possibly start prioritizing them. 

First, let's talk exhibitions. Four years ago I had ideas for 15 of them.  The number hasn't changed, although the topics for some of them have.  Here's what I'm thinking about, along with working titles.  I'll reiterate the disclaimer I had with the Stila girls exhibition:  if/when these are completed, they won't be executed anywhere near how I envisioned, but they will be something to start with.

  1. "Black and Blue:  A History of Punk Makeup" - A subject so near and dear to my heart deserves a solo show.
  2. "Catch the Light:  A History of Glitter Makeup and Beauty" - I think this would be perfect for a holiday exhibition.
  3. "The Medium is the Message:  Makeup as Art" - This will trace how makeup is marketed and conceived of as literal art.  Consider it a comprehensive discussion of this post.
  4. "Wanderlust:  Travel-Inspired Beauty" -  I cannot for the life of me believe how many travel-inspired makeup collections there are.  This exhibition would examine those and discuss the idea of makeup intended for travel.  Who wants to see some vintage train cases?
  5. "Design is a Good Idea:  Innovations in Cosmetics Design and Packaging" -  I'm hoping this would be co-curated with two fashion/design scholars that I met on Instagram.
  6. "Taking Flight:  Makeup as Metamorphosis" -  I'm still a little fuzzy on the details, but I know I want to have a whole section of makeup packaging featuring winged creatures (butterflies, fairies, etc.) and makeup looks inspired by them.  Anchoring the exhibition would be an emphasis on the transformative nature of makeup.
  7. "Gilded Splendor:  A History of Gold Makeup" - Another good holiday exhibition topic. 
  8. "Ancient Allure: Egypt-Inspired Makeup and Beauty" -  While I like this topic, it's necessary to be mindful of the rampant cultural appropriation.
  9. "Just Desserts:  Sweet Tooth Revisited" - Like a rich dessert, this topic is too good not to have another bite of.  I might also expand it to include non-dessert food-themed beauty, and maybe this very talented writer could co-curate with me.
  10. "Aliengelic:  Pat McGrath Retrospective" - Oh, how I'd love to do an exhibition devoted to Pat McGrath, with a stunning catalogue that would double as a coffee table book.  Alternate title instead of Aliengelic:  "The Mother of Modern Makeup".
  11. "By Any Other Name:  The Rose in Makeup and Beauty" - I pitched this idea to the FIT Museum as a small add-on to their upcoming "Ravishing" exhibition.  They weren't interested but I might just do it anyway. 
  12. "From Male Polish to Guyliner:  A History of Men's Makeup" - this will be huge.  Various writers have discussed it previously, but I want to go really in-depth with it.
  13. "She's All That:  Beauty in the '90s" - This is also the subject of the book on '90s beauty I've been wanting to write since at least 2014.  Not a great message in the film She's All That, but I would hope the premise of the exhibition/book will explain why I chose it as a title.  Or I might rework it to something totally different, I don't know.  And while I know I'll run into the same problems I did with trying to launch this exhibition previously, I figured I need to start somewhere.
  14. "From Mods and Hippies to Supervixens and Grrrls:  '60s and '90s Makeup in Dialogue" - In my opinion, cultural developments in both the late '60s and mid-1990s radically changed the beauty industry and gave birth to new ideas about how people view and wear makeup. 
  15. The last one is rather interesting in that it's the first exhibition topic suggested to me by an independent curator.  I don't want to reveal too much since we haven't really talked through it, but I can say it would be incredibly out of the box and involve '80s makeup. 

The husband made a super duper handy graphic of my exhibition ideas. 

Makeup Museum upcoming exhibitions

And now for all the other ideas that I'm going to try to get through on the website in 2020.  Here's another graphic to help wrap my head around what topics I want to tackle this year.  As you can see it gives the general categories and the number of articles in each category.

Makeup Museum upcoming topics list

Some details:

MM Musings (3):  Several huge topics, including the definition of a museum, inclusive museums, and an exploration of the process of a private collection going public.

Makeup as Muse (3):  the next artists on my list are Sylvie Fleury, Rachel Lachowitz and Gina Beavers.

MM Mailbag (2-3):  Too many inquiries to list!  I'm still only at about 50% "solved" rate...good thing I'm not a real detective.  But there were some really interesting questions in the past year or so, including ones about the history of Corn Silk powder and a travel set by Madam C.J. Walker.

Brief histories (4): zodiac-themed beauty, crystal-inspired beauty, makeup setting sprays, and how drag makeup techniques became mainstream and/or co-opted.  Possibly something on colored mascara.

Trends (1):  Makeup brand merchandise and swag.

Topics to revisit (3):  faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, cultural appropriation in cosmetics advertising.

Vintage (5):  Feature on Revlon Futurama lipstick cases, research on a series of Dorothy Gray ads featuring portraits of well-to-do "society" ladies, a roundup of ads depicting women looking at their reflections (sort of a follow-up to my lipstick mirror post), a comparison of Benefit's Glamourette and Platé's Trio-ette compacts, and a history of face powder applicators.

Artist collabs (5):  Only 5 so far but I'm sure there will be more!  Currently I'm trying to catch up on some of last year's releases, including Brecht Evens for Mikimoto, Connor Tingley for NARS, Yoon Hyup for Bobbi Brown, and a staggering amount of Shiseido Gallery compacts and lip balms (there are 12, yes, 12 artists in all so I will have to combine several of them in one post.)  Oh, and I want to start a series on the artists whose work appears on Pat McGrath's packaging.

Book reviews (3):  I want to do at least 3, hopefully more.  On my short list: Red Lipstick:  Ode to a Beauty IconStyle and Status:  Selling Beauty to African-American Women, Viva MAC, and Sacred Luxuries:  Fragrance, Aromatherapy and Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt.  I also have two more tomes that have been sitting on my bookshelf for several years. 

New series (3):  I've been thinking about this for years, ever since I did my fantasy Broad City makeup collection.  This would be a series discussing artists whose work I want to see on makeup packaging, complete with mock-ups.  The reason I haven't done it yet is because I lack the technical skills to make said mock-ups, but hopefully I'll figure out a work-around.

Color Connections (?): I'd love to return to Color Connections.  It's such a fun, albeit time-consuming series.

I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way - I think some guest posts and interviews will make an appearance here.

Finally, my book ideas.  These are not new...I do hope to find some time to start writing all three.  I have outlines and chapters for each but that's about it.  The first one is an alternate title for the '90s exhibition.  The second one you can find a description of in this post.  And the last one, well, I still want to do the damn coffee table book of pretty makeup.  We're going on 14 years that I've been wanting to publish it!

Makeup Museum upcoming book list

So those are all the ideas I have swirling about in my brain at the moment.  They are subject to change as I'm sure I'll think of more but at least I've laid out the current ones.  Please let me know in the comments which exhibitions and topics you want to see first!  And if you'd like to help with any definitely let me know.  Book-writing tips are especially needed. ;)


Curator's Corner, December 2019 and yearly wrap-up

CC logoIt's nice to return to Curator's Corner, hopefully I can keep it up in 2020. 

- Why I'm just discovering this book on Maybelline's history is beyond me, but in any case I'd like to check it out.

- Ditto for this amazing blog. I have no idea how our paths didn't cross sooner, but the author recently reached out to me regarding the Sweet Tooth exhibition, and as it turns out we are nearly identical in how we perceive beauty trends and which ones stand out to us.  Saffron has written extensively on food and dessert-themed beauty, but also on cutesy makeup that seems to be intended more for children than adults (see my 2011 Child's Play post) and makeup marketed and packaged as art supplies (a topic I touched on briefly in 2016 and am hoping to unveil an exhibition of later this year).  She's also tackled topics I've had in my drafts folder for years, like apothecary-inspired beauty, CBD products, and zodiac-inspired beauty (you know I love vintage zodiac compacts and there are so many more zodiac-themed products nowadays so I've been wanting to do a full roundup!) Plus she's really into design/packaging and vintage makeup too.  Her "Highlights" feature is like Curator's Corner, and sometimes we even do the same color trends.  I found my beauty twin!  So yeah, go add her blog to your bookmarks and feed reader. 

- More good content comes from Dazed Beauty, including a piece on the weirdest beauty trends from 2019, a critique of Frida Kahlo-themed tweezers, an article on why we get attached to certain makeup items (or in my case, all makeup items) and a review of a new film called Toxic Beauty, which is just like it sounds - highlighting the harmful ingredients used in cosmetics and the industry's lack of regulation.

- I love yellow so naturally I was feeling this graffiti-inspired look at Dior.  I'm less excited about the commodification of mental health care in the name of "wellness" and "self-care" in the beauty industry.

- Sometimes I try to do a trend review at the end of the year, but that clearly wasn't happening in 2019.  Instead, please enjoy these links on the biggest trends of 2019 as well as the decade.  One "trend", if you can call it that, that I'd like to leave behind is influencer drama.  I'm not big on influencers anyway and frankly, I don't care what they're fighting about.  It's irritating that it gets press coverage when there are so many other topics that need attention.

- We can't have a trend roundup without looking ahead to the following year, so here are some forecasts.  I'll also throw in my prediction that merch will continue to be huge among beauty brands.  Along with color-changing cosmetics and the crystal-themed beauty trend, it's yet another topic I want to cover in 2020.

The random:

- The next installment of Makeup Museum Musings will be on either inclusivity or the definition of museums.  This piece at Jezebel came in handy for background research for both topics.

- As a Gen-X'er who started having problems sleeping a few years ago, I need to buy this book ASAP.  You might also remember the author as the woman behind the long-gone '90swoman.com, where I wrote a guest post on '90s beauty well before the resurgence we're experiencing now.

- Speaking of that magical decade, Alanis Morissette has announced she's touring with Liz Phair and Garbage in honor of Jagged Little Pill's 25th anniversary.  Plus, for those of us who still pine away for the days of VHS and Blockbuster, this guy opened a video store in his basement.

- One good thing from 2019 was the arrival of Baby Yoda.  Makeup Museum staff is worried that I think he's cuter than they are so I have to make them extra cookies as reassurance.

And here's a summary of the year on the personal front.  Usually I try to keep the personal stuff to a minimum, but since the Museum is a one-woman show, my personal life inevitably affects Museum business. In 2019 the following took place:

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My father had a massive stroke in March and has not recovered the way we were hoping.  We had no illusions - we knew recovery would not be a straight line and that he wouldn't be the same - but nearly 10 months out he has shown little improvement from the initial episode and is still severely limited physically and cognitively.  It was a bad stroke to begin with, but my father had the added misfortune of developing every conceivable complication and setback.  He is currently getting a second chance in another acute rehab facility, but if he is not able to do basic movements by the end of his stay (such as transferring himself from bed to wheelchair, etc.) he will require full-time care. 

- Speaking of home, my parents no longer have one. My mother was not thinking clearly (obviously seeing your formerly healthy and totally independent partner of over 50 years go downhill so quickly and then not improve is beyond devastating) and over the summer sold the house she and my dad owned for 43 years.  This was my childhood home and where I spent every Christmas, even as an adult, so my eyes swelled shut from crying so much on Christmas Eve as we spent it in the hospital rather than the house. 

- As a result from a nasty fall and broken arm a week before Christmas of 2018, my mother required surgery in June to repair the damaged nerve as she had lost use of her left hand.  We are glad the surgery went well and she has regained full use of her hand, but that fall back in late 2018 was definitely an omen of worse things to come.  Plus, having surgery while also taking care of one's spouse who is recovering from a severe stroke is not exactly good timing.

- A few weeks after my mother's surgery my grandmother died.  My father did not attend the funeral and it's unclear if he fully understood that his mother passed away.

- This isn't a big deal, but it upset me nonetheless.  My favorite band put out a terrible album. Maybe if my dad hadn't had the stroke I wouldn't have taken it so hard, but there seemed to be a parallel between what happened to him and what happened to the band.  It's like they've been replaced by an imposter.  Sure, we get glimpses of how they used to be, there are some moments where they're recognizable, but for the most part they're shells of their former selves.  Every time I look at my dad I think, "That's not him, where is he?"  So the same with Sleater-Kinney - it didn't sound anything like the band I  knew  and loved for so many years.  I bought tickets for a DC show before I heard the album and ended up not going. The unique energy and pure magic they made was entirely absent.  And now that their drummer left they will never be the same...again, just like how my dad will never be the same. 

- Finally, as one last fuck-you from this miserable year, a group of rather unethical entrepreneurs decided it would be a hoot to steal the Museum's name and proclaim to be the "world's first" museum devoted to makeup.  And there are a slew of other copycats starting cosmetics museums but all claiming to be the first and only makeup museum, which is obviously ridiculous as even my museum isn't the first!  And it certainly isn't the only one either.  I found out about most of these entities back in March, literally the day before my father had the stroke - another premonition.  Given his health issues I was unable to deal with the situation swiftly which only made it worse. I may elaborate on the whole disaster at another time in a separate post but for now I'm waiting until I get more information from my attorneys.  I am also in the process of hiring a PR firm.  If anyone knows of a good social media strategist do let me know. 

TLDR; the Curator got her ass kicked repeatedly and thoroughly in 2019 and that's why things around the Museum were so quiet.  I don't know what's going to happen in 2020, but even though I feel like I've already lost, I know I'm not giving up on the Museum without a fight so I am going to try my best to explore the topics and exhibitions I’ve been wanting to cover. And by the way, if anyone tells me that it could be worse and that I should be grateful for the things I didn't lose in the shitshow that was 2019, they will be met with a forceful punch to the throat.  I am grateful and well aware of how much worse things could be - in fact, because I fully recognize this could very well be the year or decade that I lose another close family member, my home, my job, my collection, I'm terrified of what's to come on this dark timeline I can't seem to escape.  I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop...and at the same time I’m throwing myself full force into Museum projects while I still have the opportunity. 

Please tell me you had a better 2019 than I did!  Despite my sad ramblings, I hope you stick around and continue to support the Museum in 2020 and beyond.