Curator's corner, December 2020
Color Connection #42

Makeup Museum ideas for now and the future, 2021 update

It's the time of year where I babble on about things I want to tackle but most likely won't be able to.  I reviewed last year's blog post ideas and out of the 30 topics I only managed to accomplish, let's see, 10.  One-third of what I was aiming for.  Sigh.  As for exhibitions, I only did one and it wasn't all that cerebral. Anyway, no point in ruminating over what I should have done so here's a bit of an update. 

In an effort to sort of narrow down the massive amount of exhibition ideas I have, I came up with a priority list of topics that might be doable in the 1-5 years (if the Museum is still in existence) and a secondary list for, well, I have no idea - eventually. I tweaked some of the descriptions as needed.  Also, please keep in mind these are working titles.  Hopefully I can think of better ones!  Once again the husband came up with handy graphics.


    1. "Black and Blue:  A History of Punk Makeup"
    2. "Catch the Light:  Glitter in Cosmetics from Ancient Times Through Today" - Aiming to have this up for holiday 2021, but it's a big one and I will need lots of help that I'm not sure I can get.
    3. "The Life Aquatic:  Mermaid Makeup" - I need to think of a better title soon because I want this to go up in June this year.
    4. "Color History Through Cosmetics: Blue" - I decided to scrap the gold-themed exhibition in exchange for blue. I discovered so many fascinating things about blue makeup while pulling together some trivia on Instagram, there's definitely enough there for an exhibition.
    5. "Ancient Allure: Egypt-Inspired Makeup and Beauty" -  I did some polling on Twitter and Instagram and this one won as the next exhibition, so the tentative date is March 2021.
    6. "Just Desserts:  Sweet Tooth Revisited" - It might be good to revisit this on its 10-year anniversary in 2023.
    7. "Aliengelic:  Pat McGrath Retrospective" - Still a priority, but again, I will need lots of assistance and would strongly prefer having a makeup artist co-curate with me. Alternate title instead of Aliengelic:  "The Mother of Modern Makeup".
    8. "From Male Polish to Guyliner:  A History of Men's Makeup" - I know that a new book on men's makeup will be released in June this year and it would be great to have the author as a co-curator.
    9. "She's All That:  Beauty in the '90s" - Oh, poor little neglected '90s makeup book and exhibition. You know I've been wanting to do a comprehensive exhibition and book since at least 2014, but just never seem to have the time.  I do have the chapter outline but I think I need to make deadlines for each chapter and publish the drafts as blog posts, otherwise it's not getting done.
    10. "Pandemic:  Makeup in the Age of COVID-19" - Depressing but historically significant. I'll need to wait until the pandemic is safely behind us, but I am gathering bits of what will surely become history now.
    11. "Ugly Makeup: A Revolution in Aesthetics" - I am so incredibly inspired by Makeup Brutalism and her other effort Ugly Makeup Revolution, I absolutely need to explore looks that completely shatter our notions of makeup's purpose.  The exhibition would be a deep dive into how makeup is going beyond basic artistry and self-expression.
    12.  "Nothing to Hide:  Makeup as Mask" - This was the other choice I included in the Twitter and Instagram polls. While respondents chose Egyptian-themed makeup over this one, the mask theme in makeup goes back centuries and would certainly make a rich topic, plus I could do a subsection on mask-wearing's effects on makeup in the pandemic.

Makeup Museum exhibition list

Secondary list/things I'm not sure about:

    1. "Queens:  A History of Drag Makeup" - Amazing topic but overwhelming. Need much help!
    2. "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; there are many parallels between the two eras. I feel, however, that I'd need to do the '90s exhibition and book first so this would have to wait.
    3. "Gilded Splendor:  A History of Gold Makeup" - This is nice but the more I thought about it the more I didn't think it would be a priority.
    4. "Design is a Good Idea:  Innovations in Cosmetics Design and Packaging" -  Another that I still like but not so much as to make it immediate.
    5. "The Medium is the Message:  Makeup as Art" - This will trace how makeup is marketed and conceived of as traditional art mediums, i.e painting and sculpture, and also how art history is incorporated into makeup advertising and collections.  Consider it a comprehensive discussion of this post while working in canonical artists whose work has appeared on makeup packaging.  My issue with it is that it's overwhelmingly white.  The artists used in vintage ads such Lancome's are white and even collections today don't collaborate with many BIPOC artists, especially Black ones.
    6. "Wanderlust:  Travel-Inspired Beauty" -  A rich topic and would be timely in light of the pandemic limiting travel for most, but honestly, I'm not that excited about it.
    7. "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 "Ravishing" exhibition.  They weren't interested and now that the exhibition has passed I'm tabling it for now.

Makeup Museum secondary exhibition list

And now for blog posts!

MM Musings (2):  FINALLY getting up the diversity and inclusion in museums post up this month after a year of working on it, and the other topic to tackle this year will be becoming a nonprofit organization.

Makeup as Muse (3):  I managed to get around to covering Gina Beavers last year, but that was it.  The artists on my list are Sylvie Fleury, Rachel Lachowitz, Asa Jungnelius and Tomomi Nishizawa.

MM Mailbag (2-3):  Once again the MM mailbag overflowed in 2020 and most of the inquiries took a significant amount of time to research and answer.  I'll see what might be feasible. 

Brief histories (4-5): I still want to go ahead with histories of powder applicators, setting sprays and maybe colored mascara, color-changing cosmetics and how makeup language has evolved (for example, why we typically say "blush" now instead of "rouge" for cheek color.) The author of Cosmetics and Skin kindly suggested an article on copycats, i.e. how companies clearly ripped each other off and continue to do so today in terms of packaging, ad campaigns, etc. which is a great topic.  I'm also interested in a history of Day of the Dead makeup.

Trends (1):  Makeup brand merchandise and swag - another I didn't cover in 2020 as planned. I'm also very interested in the video game trend in makeup, but I'm hoping this amazing person writes about it instead!

Topics to revisit (1-2):  faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, and cultural appropriation in cosmetics advertising. I did not update any of these in 2020 so I hope to do at least one of the three this year.  Also, perhaps a deeper dive into surrealism and makeup.

Vintage (6): series of Dorothy Gray ads featuring portraits of well-to-do "society" ladies, '90s prom makeup, and wear-to-work makeup from the 1970s-90s, defunct '90s and early aughts brands (Benetton, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Nina Ricci and Inoui ID to start with), and a slew of other brand histories, especially Black-owned brands like La Jac and Rose Morgan. I'm also itching to write something about Black salespeople and customers in direct sales companies, i.e. Avon, Mary King by Watkins, Fuller, Artistry by Amway, etc. The company I hope to tackle this month if the objects I purchased on Ebay ever arrive will be Holiday Magic...the story is absolutely bonkers. 

Artist collabs (5):  As in 2020 I'm still trying to catch up on some of last year's holiday releases, including Fee Greening for Mikimoto and Cecilia Carlstedt and Morag Myerscough for Bobbi Brown.  There are tons of others from previous years that I'm still thinking about, such as El Seed for MAC, Connor Tingley for NARS, the Shiseido Gallery compacts and lip balms, and a series on the artists whose work appears on Pat McGrath's packaging.

Book reviews (2):  In the interest of saving time and also because my reviews tend to be badly written (even for me), I decided to do regular reviews only for some books and speed reviews of others, combining several books in a single post.  Most of the ones I'm planning on are in the Beauty Library section of the website.

Dream Teams series (1-2):  I did actually start this series last year, albeit without the mockups I had wanted to do.  Stay tuned for more fantasy artist/makeup collabs. I especially want to focus on BIPOC artists and flesh out the idea I had back in 2016 for a Rrose Sélavy-themed collection. 

Color Connections (5+): I returned to Color Connections last year but only once.  They just take so much time. However, I've been toying with the idea of putting them as a dedicated series on Instagram separate from the Museum's regular account.  That way it might make me accountable in terms of working on them more regularly.

Finally, there will be lots of other random things popping up, and I have so many people I want to talk to so I hope to nab some interviews and guest posts. :)

And here we have my book ideas.  They're the same as last year.  The first one is an alternate title for the '90s exhibition.  The second one would basically be the accompanying catalogue for the Makeup as Art exhibition.  I still want to do a coffee table book of pretty makeup, but my concern is that it won't be diverse.

Makeup Museum book ideas

Any of these topics interest you?  Which ones would you like to read about/see first? 

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