MM ideas for 2022 and beyond
January 14, 2022
Here we go again! I was not nearly as productive on blog posts and exhibitions as I had hoped in 2021, but that was due to some behind-the-scenes things going on - namely, making the Museum a nonprofit organization, writing a land acknowledgment and developing a diversity report card (which is coming soon!) I must preface the following exhibition and blog topics by stating that there will be more behind-the-scenes things going on in 2022, so it will be even quieter than in 2021.
I won't bore you with the details, but I've made decisions about two major initiatives that have been rattling about for years: collections management software and overhauling the website. Since I can't hire a professional to help with either of these massive tasks, they will be very slow going and will require cutting back on blog posts and exhibitions (and honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the website is exactly the same 12 months from now.) My goal is to curate one exhibition and however many blog posts I can manage - I'm hoping for 20-30, but even that seems very ambitious. So with that, let's take a peek at the topics I have brewing.
In an effort to narrow down the amount of exhibition ideas I have, last year I came up with a priority list of topics that might be doable in 1-5 years (if the Museum is still in existence) and a secondary list for ones that are not quite as high priority. The descriptions are basically the same as last year and I hope to think of better titles. Once again the husband came up with handy graphics. The first four are new ideas I came up with in the past few months, so feedback is greatly appreciated in terms of how they rank in relation to the others. Also, while I plan having people assist in specific parts of exhibitions, i.e. writing the introduction or an essay on one aspect of the topic, there are four exhibitions I absolutely can't take on mostly by myself. Whether they're a group effort or involve just one other person, co-curation is necessary. It will be difficult to get co-curators, however, given that it would be a volunteer (i.e. unpaid) effort. So while these exhibitions are included in the priority list, none of them will be the 2022 exhibition as it will take time to find funding or someone who will co-curate for free.
- "Indies and Influencers: The Changing Makeup Landscape" - I am so fascinated by the number of indie brands on the market as well as their creativity. Influencers are another fairly recent development and I think it would be interesting to see how these two major developments interact and also how they're shaping makeup history.
- "Age Before Beauty: Teens and Makeup" - This is pretty straightforward. It would be a history of makeup marketed to teens, makeup advice for teens, and how past and current generations of teens view makeup. The segment on '90s prom makeup is already set. ;)
- "Vanity Projects: Celebrity Makeup Brands" - Again, self-explanatory. You would be shocked how long celebrity endorsements and lines have been around.
- I don't have a title for this one, but it would be similar to the big art x makeup exhibition/book. I think a deep dive into all the various connections between fashion and makeup is in order - from fashion brands launching makeup lines, designer collaborations and runway makeup to makeup as jewelry and a history of makeup/clothing color coordination, I'm aiming for a comprehensive look at the relationship between fashion and makeup.
- "Aliengelic: Pat McGrath Retrospective" - I'd strongly prefer having a makeup artist co-curate with me. Alternate title instead of Aliengelic: "The Mother of Modern Makeup".
- "Black and Blue: A History of Punk Makeup"
- "Catch the Light: Glitter in Cosmetics from Ancient Times Through Today" - this one is just so enormous I still don't know where to start even though it's been on my radar for a couple years now.
- "Color History Through Cosmetics: Blue" - I decided to scrap the gold-themed exhibition in exchange for blue. I discovered so many interesting things about blue makeup while pulling together some trivia on Instagram, there's definitely enough there for an exhibition. I'd also love to cover other colors.
- "Ancient Allure: Egypt-Inspired Makeup and Beauty" - This one is still proving popular when I've polled on social media. My big issue is how to handle the cultural appropriation/racist aspects of it.
- "Queens: A History of Drag Makeup" - Great topic but overwhelming. Need much help.
- "Just Desserts: Sweet Tooth Revisited" - If the Museum is still around next year, Sweet Tooth will definitely make a triumphant return on its 10-year anniversary. I would also add a section on savory food themed makeup and possibly booze...some of the things I've seen are just bonkers and have to be included.
- "Beauty Marked in Your Eyes: A History of '90s Makeup" - If you've been following this for a while you can see I tweaked the title from "She's All That". I was in the shower and listening to "Now They'll Sleep" by Belly, and the new exhibition title just hit me like lightning! 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. We'll see if I make any progress this year.
- "Pandemic: Makeup in the Age of COVID-19" - Depressing but historically significant. I'll need to wait until (if) the pandemic is safely behind us, but I am gathering bits of what will surely become history now.
- "Ugly Makeup: A Revolution in Aesthetics" - I still love Makeup Brutalism and her other effort Ugly Makeup Revolution. It would be amazing to have her curate with me. The exhibition would be a deep dive into how makeup is going beyond basic artistry and self-expression.
- "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.
- "From Male Polish to Guyliner: A History of Men's Makeup" - Would love for the author of Pretty Boys to co-curate!
Secondary list/things I'm not sure about:
- "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.
- "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.
- "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. I do love the notion of including a huge section on novelty packaging.
- "The Medium is the Message: Makeup as Art" - This will trace how makeup is marketed and conceived of as traditional fine art mediums, i.e painting and sculpture, artist collaborations for packaging (naturally) 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. While the idea of makeup as fine art was the Museum's original raison d'etre, the expression of this has been 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.
- "Wanderlust: Travel-Inspired Beauty" - honestly, this topic is sort of boring me now. But I figured I'd still keep it on the back burner.
- "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.
And here are the blog posts.
MM Musings (1-2): Really want to write about museum accessibility and how museums can be agents of social change. Those topics are huge so it'll probably have to be one or the other.
Makeup as Muse (3): I'm so ashamed I didn't get to a single Makeup as Muse in 2021. On my shortlist: Sylvie Fleury, Rachel Lachowitz, Asa Jungnelius and Tomomi Nishizawa.
MM Mailbag (2-3): The MM mailbag overflowed yet again in 2021 and they took a considerable amount of time to research and respond. We'll see what I can get around to sharing.
Vintage/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, and the Museum's Revlon Futurama post got me thinking more about the idea of makeup as jewelry. I still need to finish the series of Dorothy Gray ads featuring portraits of well-to-do "society" ladies, and I'd like to pursue wear-to-work makeup from the 1970s-90s, histories of defunct brands (a bunch of celebrity lines, Diane von Furstenberg, Halston, Ralph Lauren, Benetton, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Nina Ricci and Inoui ID, and revisit Stephane Marais), especially Black-owned brands like Naomi Sims and Rose Morgan. I still want to write something about Black salespeople and customers in direct sales companies, i.e. Avon, Mary King by Watkins, Fuller, Artistry by Amway, etc. but given that it could be an entire book I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do on it. Finally, in 2021 I became quite fascinated with paper mache lipstick holders so hope to work up a history of those and other doll-inspired lipsticks in general, along with profiles of some more obscure makeup artists from the '60s through the '90s, and a feature on makeup ad illustrators. Whew!
Trends (1): Makeup brand merchandise and swag - another I STILL didn't cover in 2021 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): Same as last year, sadly, since I still did not tackle them: faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, and cultural appropriation in cosmetics advertising. Also, perhaps a deeper dive into surrealism and makeup.
Artist collabs (5): Yes, still trying to catch up on some of 2020's holiday releases, including Fee Greening for Mikimoto and Cecilia Carlstedt for Bobbi Brown. There was also a beautiful surprise Japan-exclusive holiday collection from Clé de Peau, who teamed up with Charlotte Gastaut. There are tons of other collabs 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. There will a few surprises too. ;)
Book reviews (2-5): So. Many. Books. The speed reviews I did last year were fine, but I want to do more of these and also maybe return to more in-depth reviews.
Dream Teams (1-2): I really thought I would do at least one more of these in 2021, but I did exactly zero. 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 (1-2): I returned to Color Connections last year with a vengeance, and made good on the idea to create an entire Instagram account for them. So expect a few here from time to time. :)
Miscellanous: a feature on new Chinese beauty brands and some kawaii collections like Kakao Friends and others. And of course, keep plugging away on individual bits and pieces for the '90s book.
Speaking of which, the book ideas are the same as last year. The first and second ones are the accompanying catalogs to their respective exhibitions. The last one is the coffee table book, which I'm tinkering with to make it more diverse.
So it looks like the Museum has its work cut out for it! What exhibitions and post topics are you most excited about?