Exhibitions and museums

First: unraveling the origins of cosmetics museums

I'm doing the #Museum30 challenge on Twitter, and one of the recent prompts was "origin".  It got me thinking about the very first makeup museum.  While I have no definitive answers, it seems the first cosmetics museum, at least in the U.S., dates back to the 1950s.  And there were several others after that but before the Makeup Museum was established. So let's take a quick peek into the origin of the makeup museum and the other spaces that have gone before (along with a a couple that came after).

In October of 1956 it was reported that the House of Cosmetics, a "cosmetics museum and gallery of fame as a historical repository and a tribute to the cosmetics industry", would opening at the former Reed Company on Harrison Street in Newark, NY.  It was financed and operated by Pitkin, a cosmetics manufacturer that distributed the Linda Lee line of cosmetics.  Among other features, the museum would boast special sections for perfume, lipstick ("Lipstick Lane") and powder ("Powder Puff Parade) , along with gigantic sculptures of a perfume bottle, lipstick and powder box on the roof that would light up at night. The collection consisted of objects donated from the public along with memorabilia from the Pitkin company archives.  A perfume fountain at the entrance spouted a brand-new fragrance called Three Coins, created especially for the museum. Visitors would receive samples of the perfume.

House of Cosmetics Museum, Newark NY, December 1956
House of Cosmetics Museum, Newark NY, December 1956

The odd thing about the House of Cosmetics is that it allegedly opened in December of 1956, but there is literally no mention of it after that.  I could not for the life of me find any information on it following its grand opening, so I can only assume it wasn't successful and quietly closed, perhaps because it was too commercial and focused mostly on Pitkin.  The House of Cosmetics was not the vision of a passionate private collector, but that of the current president of Pitkin as a way to raise the company's profile nationwide and celebrate the brand's upcoming 50th anniversary in 1958.  The space prominently featured current Pitkin products and it didn't seem as though there were outside curators or historians involved, plus, only Pitkin employees served as tour guides.  I know many argue that museums should be run like businesses, and it's a conversation for another time, but I really do think that generally entrepreneurs should not be opening museums.

Fast forward to 1979* when the Pacific Cosmetics Museum, also known as the Museum of Cosmetics History, opened in Korea. While it was established by Pacific Chemicals founder Suh Seong Hwan as part of the company's factory in Seoul, the collection reflects the passion and respect Hwan had for Korean cosmetics history. 

Pacific Museum opening announcment, 1978

With the help of museum director/curator Chun Wan-gil (Cheon Wan-kil), Hwan continued researching and building the collection, all the while becoming more interested in the cultural aspects of makeup rather than seeing them merely as a way to make money.  Not only did Hwan support the museum, he funded research and publications related to Korean cosmetics history.  According to AmorePacific biographer Han Mi-Ja, "Chun Wan-gil seemed truly to enjoy working for the museum.  He poured all his energy and passion into helping Jangwon [Hwan] with it. As for Jangwon, he was amazed and thrilled to watch how the historic relics seemed to come to life after the hands of Chun Wan-gil touched them.  With his guide, Jangwon was able to build his knowledge and awareness of the historic relics, and grew more committed to the cultural activities...Jangwon thought, learned, and discovered a lot while collecting historic relics, building a museum, and presenting the results of his devotion to the world.  He was filled with a joy and sense of achievement, which were not the same as he had ever felt from his business."

Suh Seong Hwan at the opening of the Pacific Cosmetics Museum in 1979.
Suh Seong Hwan at the opening of the Pacific Cosmetics Museum in 1979.

In 2009 the museum changed its name to Amorepacific Museum of Art (APMA) and showcases modern and contemporary art rather than cosmetics, although the website states that "it is an institution dedicated to the antiques and artifacts of cosmetics culture in Korea, as well as making a meaningful contribution to local community and education."  I really can't tell whether makeup is actually on display there.  Ditto for the Pola Museum - while it was established by a cosmetics company president in 1976 and has some makeup on display for special exhibitions, I believe the museum focuses mostly on the founder's personal art collection.  So I don't know if either of those really qualify as makeup museums now, but they were at least started that way.

Going back to the U.S., in 1984 the Max Factor Makeup Museum opened in Max Factor's former studio at 1666 N. Highland Avenue in Hollywood, CA.  Overseen by Bob Salvatore, a 23-year employee of Max Factor, the museum offered a veritable treasure trove of Max Factor objects and memorabilia.  From then it's not clear what exactly happened.  Some articles state that the museum closed in 1992, some say 1996; I'm leaning towards 1996 as there are articles from 1995 advertising the museum at that location.  In any case, a portion of the collection ended up at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, which opened in October 1996 and was located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.  The collection remained there until 2004, when it landed at its original location, the old Max Factor studio. The famed Art Deco building had been turned into the Hollywood Museum in the summer of 2003.  The Max Factor collection is still there so you can visit (well, maybe if the pandemic ever ends!) 

Max Factor makeup room at the Hollywood Museum
(image from thehollywoodmuseum.com)

During this time, Shiseido opened their corporate museum in Japan as a way to celebrate the company's 120th anniversary in 1992.  I've written about this one before so I won't rehash it, but you can check out my post.  A decade later, in 2002, an Alabama paper reported on the Avon Fan Club House of one Mira Dawson.  Ms. Dawson was a top seller and avid collector of Avon memorabilia, even dressing like one of the company's co-founders to greet visitors.  She charged $2 for admission to her home, which functioned as the museum.  Here's to home-based museums!!

Newspaper article on Avon museum, Sept. 20, 2002

A year later, in November 2003 the Coreana Cosmetics Museum opened in Seoul. This was another one started by the company president; however, like the Pacific Cosmetics Museum, it seems to be far less profit-driven than the House of Cosmetics.  The Coreana Cosmetics Museum showcases over 5,300 objects from all eras and seems to have curators and historians working there rather than relying on company salespeople.

Coreana Cosmetics Museum
(image from spacec.co.kr)

Just a few years later, in 2006 the Beni Museum was established in Tokyo.  I've posted about that previously too so I won't go into it again, but you should really check it out as it's fabulous.  So that takes us to late 2007, when I registered the domain for the Makeup Museum.  Interestingly, on Instagram I got to chatting with the previous owner of the domain!  Oldschoolcosmetics had the idea of a makeup museum all the way back in the '70s and registered the domain around 1995, but realized how difficult it was and ended up walking away from makeup entirely.  Here's what she had to say:  "I first had the idea for a cosmetics museum in the 70s when I became really aware of makeup, brands and how quickly things disappeared from shelves.  My dad had a museum background and my parents took me to museums on every vacation. I started to think seriously about it in the 90s and registered the domain then. There were no odd or new domains then, just .com, .org and .net. I don’t recall if I registered .com or .org or both, but definitely not .net. At the time there was a Max Factor exhibit in the LA area, and at least two active makeup schools there which specialized in special effects and Hollywood film work. I wasn’t as interested in that, but it became obvious that the industry was based in NY and LA, rent would be prohibitive, the industry giants could set up a museum faster than I could, would definitely do so after I started up, anything on display could be permanently ruined if there was a blackout or A/C malfunction, and the bulk of the work would be grant writing, networking and managerial. I abandoned the idea fairly quickly. Ignoring all other beauty like wigs, nails, skincare, fragrance, there was still too much for one building if you showed stage makeup, drag history, failed brands, etc. Back then there were less collabs, less brands, less releases a year, the world wide web was just starting and everything was still paper catalogs, in store displays, etc. Now a museum would have to cover cancel culture, influencers, indie brands, brand owners, many more foreign brands, etc.  I used the domain for a private message board about makeup. I wanted to call it makeup mavens but someone had that name and a brand that used it. This was circa 1995? Eventually I got bored with the industry, the sheeple customers, products that disappointed, etc."

(image from @oldschoolcosmetics)

So it was kind of a downer to hear, but that sort of brutal honesty is needed at times, plus it shows I'm not a total failure - it's basically impossible to open a cosmetics museum without any investors or industry connections, or unless you're independently wealthy.  In any case, this person is enthusiastic about makeup again and supports the Makeup Museum.  She has been extremely kind in talking with me about the challenges of opening a physical space and digitizing the collection, particularly as they relate to funding sources.  She has given me quite a few excellent suggestions so hopefully I'll be able to pursue them.  Anyway, in August of 2008 I wrote my first blog post, so I usually consider that to be the Museum's official birthday. 

A little bit after the Makeup Museum was established, makeup artist René Koch opened his private collection of lipstick in Berlin to the public in 2009, naturally called the Lipstick Museum. This is still on my must-see list! Known as "Mr. Lipstick", Koch was the head makeup artist for YSL for over 20 years and has amassed a spectacular collection of lipsticks and related memorabilia.

Lipstick Museum, Berlin

René Koch of the Lipstick Museum
(images from lippenstiftmuseum.de)

Finally, we have the London Cosmetics Museum, founded by makeup artist Xabier Celaya in 2015.  Like the Makeup Museum, it's an online-only pursuit for now. However, Xabier exhibits his collection at local universities, stores and cosmetology schools, and I'd be very surprised if he doesn't have a public physical space shortly.

London Cosmetics Museum display
(image from @londoncosmeticsmuseum)

All of this goes to show there's been an interest for many years in exhibiting and preserving makeup history and beauty culture. I certainly was not the first one to have the idea of a cosmetics museum, nor will I be the last - I know of several makeup artists who are actively trying to open their own spaces.  However, if they follow in the footsteps of a certain other entity and claim to be the first, well, you know it's a lie. ;)



*There was a museum started by the president of Merle Norman Cosmetics in 1972, but I believe it was just a private collection of his cars and other non-makeup objects.

An exhibition of royal makeup (that you might be able to buy): Princess Hwahyeop

Here's more makeup awesomeness from Korea.  As usual I completely forget what I was looking for when I stumbled across a couple of articles describing the discovery of cosmetic containers in the tomb of an 18th-century princess, but it was so interesting I had to share right away.  Princess Hwahyeop (1733-1752) was the seventh daughter of King Yeongjo, 21st ruler of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910).  Her burial site was discovered 5 years ago and included a variety of cosmetics containers. The containers were already incredibly culturally and historically significant, but researchers noticed there was still some residue in the jars, a very rare find.  This provided clues about the type of makeup and skincare they contained, thereby shedding more light on 18th-century beauty culture.  How exciting!

We'll start at the beginning.*  In August 2015 a farmer living in Namyangju City, about 14 miles north of Seoul, came across a stone box buried in a onion field on her property. The farmer, Kim Jeong-hee, called the Korea Institute of Heritage, which unearthed the box in November that year but was unable to complete the excavation due to a lack of funding. Finally the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) provided support to finish the excavation in December 2016.  The box turned out to contain burial objects for the princess's husband, Shin Gwang-su. From there other items were discovered, including stone tablets identifying the tomb as that of Princess Hwahyeop and, of the course, the jackpot:  a box made of lime cement containing a bronze mirror still in its embroidered pouch, brow ink (!), combs and 12 small porcelain and wooden cosmetic containers. There was also a small black stick that may have been used to apply blush. I wish there was a photo because I can't see applying blush of any kind with a stick, so I'm wondering if it was actually for the brow ink.  The objects were stored in the National Palace Museum of Korea until they could be tested.

Princess Hwahyeop makeup containers

In 2017 the substances found inside the containers were finally went to the lab. The results aligned with our knowledge of women's beauty regimens during the Joseon era. Confucianism was the primary philosophy and promoted natural beauty as ideal beauty, so most women generally adhered to a minimal look with an emphasis on fair, light skin. This meant more effort was put into skincare and less on makeup.  While it wasn't found in the containers, women typically applied miansu, a facial water or essence in today's terminology.  This was followed by myeonyak, a sort of moisturizer/skin protector/primer hybrid made from beeswax and other ingredients such as camellia oil and kelp. After that, face powder and blush would be applied. Traces of beeswax and red pigment made from safflower and cinnabar were found in the containers, so it appears that the princess used moisturizer and blush.  She also used white face powder, as evidenced by lead and talc residue. Lead-based face paint and powder were traditionally used by aristocratic women, while those in lower social strata used a rice-based powder called baekbun.  So it seems that royalty tended to mix non-harmful ingredients with poisonous ones to make for a more effective and long-lasting product, but perhaps they were also trying to find a way to offset the negative effects. One container was found to have crushed ants suspended in acetate.  Kim Hyo-yun, researcher at the National Palace Museum, speculates that “because of their formic acid, ants might have been put in acetate to be used as a skin treatment to treat skin troubles caused by those toxic cosmetics."

Princess Hwahyeop makeup container with ants

Last October the National Palace Museum held a special exhibition displaying the princess's cosmetics, along with a seminar that brought together cosmetic ingredient experts from China, Japan and France.

Princess Hwahyeop and Her Makeup exhibition poster, National Palace Museum, 2019

How beautiful are the containers?  The blue pigment was made with cobalt, which was imported to China from Persia during the Joseon dynasty's rule.  Due to its high cost - it was even more expensive than gold - it was reserved exclusively for use by the royal court.  The motifs included pine trees, dragons, and a variety of flowers such as chrysanthemums, lotuses, azaleas, plum blossoms and peonies.  Also, only one of the jars were made by Bunwon, the official kiln of the Joseon rulers. The others were Jingdezhen ware from China and Arita ware, a type of porcelain from Japan.

Princess Hwahyeop cosmetic container, ca. 1750

Princess Hwahyeop cosmetic container, ca. 1750

Princess Hwahyeop cosmetic container, ca. 1750

I would have given my eye teeth to attend. You can see the conference program here, and there's also this documentary/reenactment that shows researchers discussing their findings when recreating the formulas as well as actors imagining the beauty routines of the royal family and how they contrasted with those in China and Japan. (I think...the description is in English but the video itself is in Korean so I'm not 100% sure.)

But the story doesn't end there.  Last week the National Palace Museum announced that they would be collaborating with Korea National University of Cultural Heritage and local cosmetics manufacturer Cosmax to launch a hand cream, foundation and lip color based on the artifacts found in Princess Hwahyeop's tomb.  The products will be formulated with modern ingredients but will also contain some of the ones found in the containers (safflower, beeswax). And obviously they will omit the poisonous materials, along with the crushed ants. 

Princess Hwahyeop makeup line prototype

The packaging appears to be gorgeous reinterpretations of the original containers.  The prototypes shown here are ceramic, but as porcelain doesn't preserve makeup very well the final packaging will be plastic.  The collection will initially be sold online at the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation website, so presumably the proceeds will support the organization.  Once the COVID situation improves the collection will be sold at duty-free stores and museum gift shops. The line will also be affordable (think drugstore pricing vs. department store) but there are plans to expand into higher end products as well.

Princess Hwahyeop makeup line prototype

Princess Hwayeop "character goods", i.e. dolls, are also in development.

Princess Hwahyeop beauty line dolls

For the most part, I think this is a great idea.  It brings about fresh awareness of makeup history and helps preserve cultural heritage, and the objects themselves are beautiful.  I do think it's a little weird to market a makeup line based on such a tragic figure.  Princess Hwahyeop may have been royalty, but her life didn't sound fun despite her luxurious beauty products.  She was married at the age of 11 and died at 19 from measles. I mean, I know things were different back then but being a child bride and then dying when not even out of one's teens seems quite sad.  I also think it's a little tacky that they trademarked the Princess's full name - the brand is literally called Princess Hwahyeop - but then again, I'm not sure what else you'd call a line whose entire basis is a particular princess. In any case, her burial site was an amazing find for cosmetics history.

What do you think?  Would you buy the Princess Hwahyeop collection if it was readily available?  The line will be released in November and I'm trying to figure out a way to get my hands on it. I have personal shoppers and online buddies who can get me things in 5 countries but not Korea!


*In addition to the links provided throughout this post, I cobbled it together from a bunch of different articles online.  Additional sources for info and images:

Exhibition spotlight: ancient Egyptian cosmetics at Johns Hopkins

Here's another short post since my schedule got completely screwed up...I've been working on some more in-depth things and once again I've completely underestimated how long they were going to take.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share a great piece of makeup history that's right here in Baltimore!  For now, anyway.  I knew about Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Museum, but had no idea they also had an extensive archaeological museum.  In 2010 they were the fortunate recipients of a long-term loan of the Myers Collection from Eton College.  The collection consists of nearly 2,000 ancient Egyptian objects, including cosmetic artifacts. A special exhibition, Providing for the Afterlife:  Ancient Egyptian Works from Eton College, highlighted some of these magnificent specimens. 

Faience kohl pot, ca. 1550-1295
Faience kohl pot, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

While it's not clear whether these items were intended for this life or the next, it's entirely possible they were entombed with their owners to prepare them in the afterlife.  The next time someone tells you makeup is frivolous, kindly direct them to this exhibition.  Egyptians thought cosmetics were such a necessity that they went out of their way to ensure the deceased would still be able to access them, right alongside representations of food and water production.  As Hopkins graduate Dr. Ashley Fiutko Arico points out, "Items associated with personal adornment, such as the cosmetic items displayed here, were particularly favored. Many of these examples were expertly crafted luxury goods of intrinsic beauty. Although it is unknown whether or not the specific examples on display here were buried with their owners, numerous examples like them have been found in funerary contexts, suggesting that this was likely the case. A selection of cosmetic vessels in a variety of shapes and materials evokes the importance attached to makeup, scented oils, and ointments."

This is a pretty nifty wood and ivory kohl tube with a swivel lid.  As we know, kohl was used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes, helping to shield one's eyes from insects and the sun's glare.

Wood and ivory kohl tube with a swivel lid
Wood and ivory kohl tube, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

How elegant is this palm column-shaped kohl tube?

Wood kohl tube in the shape of a palm column
Wood kohl tube, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

Not quite the most ergonomic design for application, but I bet this metal stick did scrape every last bit out of the kohl tube.

Metal kohl stick, New Kingdom, ca. 1550-1069 BCE
Metal kohl stick, New Kingdom, ca. 1550-1069 BCE

I wonder what this cosmetics box held!  The really great thing about the exhibition is that x-rays and other technical studies were performed by the students for each object.  So while we can't say for sure what this box contained, we know both the interior and exterior were painted, plus the students got to have some serious hands-on technical experience.

Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE
Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE

Based on "visible infrared luminescence imaging", the students were able to determine that the outer part of the box was painted with Egyptian blue, the first synthetic pigment.  All of the white areas in the photo below were painted with this vibrant blue, while it is speculated that the interior was painted with yellow.  I can only imagine how amazing this box must have looked in its original state.

Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE
Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE

(all images from archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu)

While these are wonderful objects, it's unclear if the Eton collection was ethically formed.  All I could find online was that Major William Joseph Myers "gathered" the items while stationed in Egypt and bequeathed them to Eton upon his untimely death in 1899.  Is "gathering" another word for stealing or looting, or otherwise exploiting Egyptians in some way?  Everything I've seen presents Myers as a collector who was interested in Egyptian art, so it's very likely he simply purchased the objects from local dealers - I doubt any sort of blatant tomb-raiding was taking place.  But who knows for sure?  In trying to find more information about the collection and whether these objects ended up in Myers' possession in an ethical manner*, I was also reminded of the vast Egyptian collection at Manchester, which makes me second guess purchasing the book detailing all the Egyptian palettes from the University of Manchester Museum's collection.  I want to learn more about ancient Egyptian cosmetics, or if hell freezes over be in a financial position to actually purchase an artifact, but I'm questioning how it can be done responsibly when the provenance of most of these objects is unclear or worse, definitely stolen or otherwise obtained at the expense of the original owner or native country.  This of course opens a huge can of worms about where any and all museum objects come from, which is a conversation for another time (although I have mentioned it briefly before.)

Thorny moral questions aside, these objects are fantastic and should it ever be safe to visit a museum again - hopefully sometime within the next 5 years, as the loan from Eton expires in 2025 - I may have to swing by Hopkins and see if there are any other cosmetic items on display.  What's your favorite item here?  Would you want to be buried with some makeup? I'm getting cremated so it's a non-issue for me, but I might entertain the notion of having a few pieces incinerated with my carcass. Ha!


*The only article I found related to the ethics of the Myers collection/museum indicated that 454 objects were returned to Egypt in 2009, but these were not objects collected by Myers himself; they were the gift of another donor in 2006.  

Soaring beauty: The butterfly in modern cosmetics

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Welcome the Makeup Museum's spring 2020 exhibition!  "Soaring Beauty: The Butterfly in Modern Cosmetics" explores the many ways butterfly imagery is used across all aspects of beauty culture.  For 100 years the butterfly has been an endless source of inspiration for makeup artists and collections, ad campaigns and packaging.  As the butterfly is perhaps the ultimate symbol of transformation, there is no motif more appropriate to embody the metamorphosis that makeup can provide. Like flowers, various butterfly species are a favorite reference for makeup colors, textures and finishes.  More broadly, butterflies represent springtime, rebirth, hope, and freedom.  With "Soaring Beauty", the Makeup Museum seeks to embrace this optimistic spirit and provide a peaceful oasis in the midst of a very uncertain and trying time.

The exhibition focuses on 5 main elements of butterfly makeup, which I will examine briefly before getting to the main show.  Hover over the image for information, and additional details (when available) are listed in some of the captions.

I. Color
The vibrancy of butterflies' coloring and their wings' gossamer texture figure prominently in the beauty sphere. Makeup shades and artist creations include every tone from earthy moth browns and greens to bold blue and orange hues to slightly softer pastels.

Vogue Portugal September 2016, makeup by Michael Anthony
Vogue Portugal September 2016. Makeup: Michael Anthony; Photography: Jamie Nelson; Model: Zuzana Gregorova; Styling: Melaney Oldenhof; Hair: Linh Nguyen

Blanck Digital magazine, December 2016
(image from blanckdigital.com)

Makeup by Sheri Vargas
Editorial: "Ephemeral", spring 2013. Model: Lola; Hair & Makeup: Sheri Vegas; Photographer: Clara Copley

(image from designscene.net)

Makeup by Sheri Terry for Glamour New Zealand
(image from sheriterry.com)

Elle Ukraine, August 2012, makeup by Lloyd Simmonds
Elle Ukraine, August 2012, makeup by Lloyd Simmonds

(image from pinterest)

Quality Magazine, makeup by Hannah Burkhardt
Quality Magazine Germany. Hair and Makeup: Hannah Burckhardt; Photographer: Marco Rothenburger; Models: Krista Tcherneva and Alena N.; Styling: Jennifer Hahn

(image from pinterest)

As butterflies are largely synonymous with spring, rebirth and rejuvenation, the vast majority of butterfly-themed collections are released then and feature bright, fresh colors.

Revlon Butterfly Pink ad, 1958
This ad is racist AF but I thought it was important to include.

Artdeco spring 2013
(image from magi-mania.de)

However, some color stories reflect different seasons via butterflies' natural habitats. Chanel's summer 2013 collection featured rich greens and blues reminiscent of the tropical morpho butterfly, while Anastasia Beverly Hills and Colourpop's fall releases opted for warmer tones inspired by monarch butterflies and their migration in the cooler months.

L'été Papillon de Chanel, summer 2013

L'été Papillon de Chanel, summer 2013 - makeup by Peter Philips
(images from popsugar.com)

ABH Norvina 3 palette

Colourpop fall 2019
(images from anastasiabeverlyhills.com and ulta.com)

II. Texture and Finish
The delicate, lightweight nature of butterflies and the softness of their wings is repeatedly referenced in early 20th century advertisements for face powder.

Icilma advertising postcard, 1920s
(image from maudelynn.tumblr.com)

Lancome powder ad, 1935

Poudre Simon, ca. 1930s-1940s
(image from lesanneesfolles.ocnk.net)

Poudre Simon ad, 1941
(image from hprints.com)

Yardley ad, 1948
(image from wikimedia.org)

For Australian brand Lournay, the "butterfly touch" was an integral part of their marketing for two decades.

1940s Lournay ad

Lournay ad, 1950

Lournay ad, 1952

Lournay ad, 1955

As for finishes, butterfly-themed makeup excels at imparting an iridescent, pearlescent or metallic sheen that reflects light similarly to that of a butterfly's wing.  New technology is being developed to artificially yet seamlessly recreate the iridescent butterfly wing effect in cosmetics, among other areas.

Model Joan Smalls at Jean Paul Gaultier spring 2014 couture show, makeup by Lloyd Simmonds(images from vogue and stylecaster)

Emily Rogers butterfly lipstick, ca. 1965
(image from pinterest)

Lipstick Queen Butterfly Ball lipstick
"Inspired by the beauty of a butterfly's wing, these moisturizing lipsticks shimmer with a flash of turquoise iridescence that lights up the complexion and makes teeth appear whiter. In soft and whimsical shades of pink that flutter and float over lips, this collection of lipsticks brings a butterfly radiance to your entire look."

(image from lookfantastic.com)

Harpers Bazaar Netherlands, October 2015. Makeup by
Harper's Bazaar Netherlands, October 2015. Makeup Artist: Gina Kane; Photographer: Felicity Ingram; Model: Amy Verlaan; Creative director: Piet Paris; Hair Stylist: Anna Cofone

(image from pinterest)

The fascination with butterflies' iridescent quality is also expressed in "morpho" compacts of the 1920s and '30s.  These were made with real morpho butterfly wings or foil and commonly depicted tropical locales.  Popularized by jeweler Thomas Mott at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, morpho designs were also used in jewelry and other accessories. 

Morpho compacts(images from etsy and pinterest)

III. Movement
Butterfly beauty products embraced the notion of flight and the insects' graceful motion, at times linking them to dance or music to more fully capture the joyous, free-spirited movement of a butterfly soaring through the air.  K-beauty brand Holika Holika simply titles their butterfly embossed blushes "Fly", while jeweler Monica Rich Kosann named the compact she created for Estée Lauder "Butterfly Dance".  Pat McGrath's "techno butterflies" look at Dior's spring 2013 combines pastel "wings" with rhinestone details to impart a rave-like vibe.

Holika Holika Fly blushes

Butterfly Dance compact by Monica Rich Kosann for Estée Lauder
(image from neimanmarcus.com)

Dior spring 2013, makeup by Pat McGrath
(images from beautyfw.com)

But the fluttering movement of a butterfly is best captured in makeup via the eyelashes. 

Paperself deer and butterfly lashes
(image from paperself.com)

Vogue Portugal September 2016
Vogue Portugal September 2016. Makeup: Michael Anthony; Photography: Jamie Nelson; Model: Zuzana Gregorova; Styling: Melaney Oldenhof; Hair: Linh Nguyen

L'Oreal Butterfly Effect mascara ad
(image from pinterest)

Manish Arora spring 2020, makeup by Kabuki
(image from buro247.sg)

IV. Design
Butterflies proved to be a popular design element in general. As far back as the 1900s, jewelers created exquisitely detailed butterfly compacts made with fine glass and sterling silver, and many compact manufacturers incorporated the motif in their offerings.  The butterfly's more whimisical side is expressed in Max Factor's acrylic "Butterfly Kiss" set and more recently, in a Jill Stuart Beauty lip gloss filled with iridescent butterfly-shaped glitter.

Max Factor holiday ad, 1974
(image from pinterest)

Butterfly makeup design

  1.  Austrian sterling silver and glass compact, ca. 1920s
  2.  Lady Wilby compact, ca.
  3.  Jill Stuart Butterfly lip gloss, spring 2019
  4.  Vantine powder box, ca. 1923
  5. House of Sillage lipstick case (in collaboration with the film The Aeronauts), fall 2019
  6. Nacon compact, ca. 1982
  7. Volupte compact, ca. 1946-1952

V. Mood and Metamorphosis
Whether it's subdued or taking a more literal approach, butterfly inspired makeup is a universally recognized symbol for spring and transformation.  Many companies release items embossed with butterflies or incorporate them in the advertising for their spring campaigns to express the larger ideas of hope, joy, freedom and rejuvenation.

Lubin "Butterfly Bouquet" face powder, ca. 1920s
(image from worthpoint.com)

Guerlain ad, 1965
(image from hprints)

Clinique Fresh Bloom ad, spring 2007 - collection of the Makeup Museum

Shown here are Pop Beauty, Mark and Paul & Joe blushes/bronzers/highlighters from spring 2012 and a spring 2016 Clinique GWP bag with a Vera Neumann butterfly print.

Spring butterfly makeup, collection of the Makeup Museum

The theme of metamorphosis is reinforced through the fusing of faces and butterflies. By adhering butterflies to the cheeks, lips and even eyes, the effect is a physical transformation intended to turn the mundane into the magical and capture the essence of the butterfly as it emerges from its cocoon.

Lady Gaga on V Magazine, 2011
(image from fashionista.com)

Schon Magazine, Issue 19
Schon Magazine, Issue 19 (fall 2012), makeup by Elias Hove

(image from trendhunter.com)

Giambattista Valli, fall 2012
"The Garden of Eden theme continued with the make-up – glitter eyes beneath net masks to look like delicate mythical creatures, and butterflies on the models’ lips as though the insects had just landed there for a moment." - Jessica Bumpus for British Vogue

(image from vogue.com)

An outstanding example of this concept is the spring 2020 runway show by Manish Arora.  Makeup artist Kabuki was responsible for the dazzling, otherworldly looks.  Some of the models were drag queens, emphasizing the transformational nature of both makeup and butterflies.

Manish Arora spring 2020

Manish Arora spring 2020

Manish Arora spring 2020(images from buro247.sg)

As noted in part 1 of the introduction, butterfly-inspired makeup usually features an array of colors found on various butterfly species. However, when combined with butterfly application directly to facial features, barely-visible makeup speaks to butterflies' undomesticated environment and conveys the human bond with nature. 

Dazed magazine, June 2012
Dazed magazine, June 2012. Makeup: Peter Phillips; Hair: Syd Hayes; Photographer: Ben Toms; Model: Elza Luijendijk; Stylist: Robbie Spencer 
Dazed and Confused magazine, June 2012
Dazed magazine, June 2012. Makeup: Peter Phillips; Hair: Syd Hayes; Photographer: Ben Toms; Model: Elza Luijendijk; Stylist: Robbie Spencer 

(images from fashiongonerogue.com)


All of the above elements are well represented throughout the objects in the exhibition.  So let's get to it!

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Top row, left to right.

Let me just say that the story of Lucretia Vanderbilt makes Tiger King look tame by comparison.  I tried to summarize it the best I could, but for the full story head over to Collecting Vintage Compacts.

Lucretia vanderbilt

Lucretia Vanderbilt compact

Lucretia Vanderbilt powder box

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Possibly my favorite pieces in the exhibition and one of my all-time favorites: Chantecaille Les Papillons eyeshadows and Garden in Kyoto palette.

Chantecaille Les Papillons and Garden in Kyoto palette

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I had to do several labels to cover the Mamechiyo and Chinese New Year collections for this shelf.  I was also going to include the Lisa Kohno collaboration, but given the lack of space and the fact that there's another Shu collection in the exhibition I left it out.

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year 2016 and Mamechiyo collection

Butterfly kite by Zhang Xiaodong

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Shu uemura mamechiyo beauty

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Shu Uemura boutique ceiling by Mamechiyo

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I'm hoping to dig up more information on the artist behind the design on this Stratton palette, which may be tricky as his archives are located in the UK.

Stratton butterfly compact by Holmes Gray

Dior makeup ad, spring 1985, makeup by Tyen

Dior makeup ad, spring 1985

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Second row, left to right.

I couldn't find much information on the inspiration behind Marcel Wanders' compact for Cosme Decorte.  I'd love to know how he came up with the design.  All I know is that the model in this video is wearing a dress made with the same pattern.

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact

Slightly better shot of the powder so you can see the lovely little butterfly details.

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact
(promo images from cosmedecorte.com)

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Anna Sui butterfly makeup

Anna Sui butterfly blush

Anna Sui (runway images from vogue.com)

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

MAC Madame B pamphlet, spring 2005

MAC Madame B pamphlet, spring 2005

Gucci Sunstone Illuminator

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I wish I could have found a little more info on the Hampden brand and DuBarry's Vanessa face powder.  I remember adoring the 3D butterfly in my brief history of DuBarry but could not find any reference specifically to Vanessa.

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Hampden and Dubarry Vanessa face powder

Hampden face powder, ca. 1931-1945

Dubarry Vanessa face powder

Dubarry Vanessa face powder box detail

Third row, left to right.

Lancome Butterflies Fever, 2011

Alexis Mabille

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

You might remember I featured the La Jaynees powder box in the spring 2016 exhibition.  I managed to scrounge up a rouge box. No rouge, but the box is lovely on its own.  Once again Collecting Vintage Compacts did an amazing brand history.

La Jaynees face powder and rouge box

La Jaynees face powder and rouge box

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Recent acquisition, which you can read more about here.

Sulwhasoo x Antoinette Poisson, spring 2020

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I wish I could have cleaned up this Avon palette a little better, but I was afraid of damaging it.  However, one in better condition and with the original box popped up on ebay, so get ready for new photos!

Vintage Avon butterfly palette

Vintage Avon butterfly palette

I wonder if Sears has archives that I could look at to find out anything about their cosmetic line.

Sears makeup ad, 1968

Bottom row, left to right.

I have the lipstick somewhere but am unable to locate it at the moment.  What I really regret is not buying the accompanying Météorites powder or pressed powder compact, but they were so pricey and at the time I just couldn't afford them.

Guerlain Midnight Butterfly eyeshadow, holiday 2008

Guerlain Midnight Butterfly promo and bottle

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

More Shu!

Shu Morphorium palettes, spring 2011

Shu Morphorium palettes, spring 2011

Shu Morphorium promo, spring 2011

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I was unable to find any information at all on this powder box, but yet again Collecting Vintage Compacts had everything on the Jaciel brand.

Geo. F. Foster powder box

Vintage Jaciel compact

Jaciel ad, 1928
(Advertisement image from Collecting Vintage Compacts)

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Some more items that were included in the spring 2016 exhibition.

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palettes

For the life of me I couldn't get decent pictures of them on the shelves so here are the images from my original post on them.

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palette

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palettes

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palettes

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palettes

Paul & Joe spring 2016

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

There was one more item I wanted to include, but couldn't fit it so I'm using a photo from when I wrote about it.

Urban Decay Alice Through the Looking Glass palette, spring 2016

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Exhibition Notes
I had been wanting to cover the butterfly theme for about 8 years now.  An article on butterfly compacts called "High Fliers" in the February 2017 issue of the BCCS newsletter also inspired me. I wish I could have written a deep think piece on the idea of makeup as metamorphosis or was able to do more research besides what's online, but given the current situation I kept it simple and decided to save my energy for different topics that I can tackle when the libraries reopen, which will hopefully happen in the summer. (I discovered some local university libraries may have the resources I'm looking for, but I cannot access them remotely as I'm not a student or faculty member.) But access to certain archives might have allowed some examples of runway/editorial butterfly makeup that's older than 2012 and more images featuring models of color.  And I know it seems like I included every instance of butterflies in makeup that is at my disposal, but I promise it was thoughtfully edited (curated, if you will.)  There were actually even more looks that I wanted to include but got frustrated at the lack of basic information about them like the makeup artist or year.  As for the objects themselves, I don't think any of them are vegan or cruelty-free, even though some of the companies that made them are now cruelty-free/vegan, such as Chantecaille.

Decor Notes
The husband did an amazing job of "butterflying" the Museum's logo for the exhibition poster and labels.  I was going to buy a paper butterfly garland or use the mini paper butterflies I had gotten for Instagram props in the exhibition, but in the end decided it was too gimmicky (and the garland reminded me too much of a baby shower for some reason.)  I figured given the current space the focus should be more on the ads and objects.  But if the Makeup Museum occupied a physical space, here is some art I would include as decor.  It would be like stepping into a very artsy butterfly garden!

Paper butterflies by Rebecca Coles
(image from rebeccajcoles.co.uk)

Eiji Watanabe(image from mymodernmet.com)

David Kracov, Gift of Life
(image from eden-gallery.com)

Merle Axelrad, Butterfly Effect, 2015
(image from axelradart.com)

Christopher Marley, Exquisite Creatures

Christoperh Marley, Exquisite Creatures
(images from @omsi)

And that wraps it up!  Remember you can participate in the exhibition - find out how here.  In the meantime, one easy way to weigh in is to tell me what your favorite objects, looks or ads were (either in the intro or main exhibition or both) and why. :)

Coming soon: MM spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum: spring 2020 exhibition
I know it seems rather tone-deaf or even callous to launch an exhibition in the midst of a pandemic, especially an exhibition that projects optimism and celebrates a new spring season. But I honestly feel like it's carrying out the Makeup Museum's mission to do so.  Both art and makeup have a positive effect on mental health, and I believe that the Museum's content can contribute to our collective well-being.  I'm not going to pretend that the Museum can prevent people from getting sick or that it can save jobs.  Nor would I be so pompous to believe that it can effect any sort of real change in the beauty industry or society in general; it simply doesn't have the power or influence (yet...world domination is on my bucket list.) But I do think it can help in some small way and provide a bit of comfort.  At the very least, an exhibition won't cause any harm. I think you can be incredibly concerned about the current situation but also able to take a quick break from reality and soak in something positive and/or pretty to look at.  And that's where the Museum comes in.  I'm hoping the exhibition will be nice to browse, but I also wanted to give the option of participation as an added distraction, since we seem to need those now more than ever. For a while I've been enamored of the idea of the participatory museum, and while the efforts for audience engagement weren't quite successful for the Stila girls exhibition, perhaps the topic of the spring 2020 exhibition will yield a more lively conversation.  The exhibition is scheduled to go up this week, but in the meantime you can ruminate on the following ways to get involved if you so choose.

  • An oldie but goodie method of audience engagement: After the exhibition goes up, tell me what your favorite objects/looks were. (I've been doing this for years and I'm always interested to see what the favorites are.)
  • Submit your favorite butterfly-inspired makeup looks.  They can be your own creations or made by others, just make sure you provide the proper credit.  I know there are tons of editorial and runway looks inspired by butterflies, but at the moment I'm only able to access what's freely available online, so I'm interested for others to uncover butterfly looks lurking below the surface.
  • Submit your favorite butterfly makeup ads or objects that weren't covered in the exhibition.  Again, I just need photo credits.
  • Share your thoughts on makeup as metamorphosis.  Do you think makeup is transformational on a level other than physical appearance?  Why or why not?  Do you have any moments where you felt transformed by makeup? 
  • Share any and all thoughts on butterflies as they relate to makeup.

The Museum will welcome entries from April 10 until May 15.  You can email me, leave a comment here, or message me on Twitter or Instagram.  I will set up a second blog post as a sort of crowd-sourced exhibition, and add all your contributions there as they come in.  I'll be tweeting them and putting them in my stories on Instagram along the way as well.  Of course, if you don't want to do any of the above and just sit back and view the exhibition, that's fine too. :)

Thank you and I hope your enjoy!  Butterflies are a longstanding symbol of the soul, so consider the Museum's exhibition a little butterfly sanctuary for both makeup and spirit.

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.

The Makeup Museum presents: Stila at 25

Makeup Museum Stila Girl Exhibition

I'm so very excited to announce the Makeup Museum's special exhibition in honor of Stila's 25th anniversary!  I was too overwhelmed to do a full history of the brand, so I decided to just focus on the famous Stila girl illustrations.  If you've been following me for a while you know that the Stila girls were sort of the gateway drug for my interest in collecting makeup and seeing cosmetics packaging as art.  For such a milestone anniversary I knew I wanted to pay tribute to them, even though the year is almost over (thankfully - it's been miserable for a number of reasons), especially given that I've been itching to put together a special exhibition for them since at least 2016.  I also wanted to try something totally new for the Museum in terms of exhibitions.  Technically all of them are online, but instead of putting things on shelves and taking photos, I wanted it to have a more "real" online exhibition feel.  I've been doing a lot of thinking the past year or so about how to improve the exhibitions even though I'm so limited in what I can do, and I was really inspired by the Kanebo Compact Museum website, and once the husband showed me Squarespace I was sold.  Well that, and the fact that he kindly offered to design the entire exhibition site for me.  ;)  So I set up a domain there which, if this exhibition is well-received, will serve as the space for the Museum's special exhibitions going forward.  The seasonal ones will remain here if I decide to keep going with them.  Looking ahead, I think I'd rather focus on more specific topics than general seasonal trends.  Not that I can delve too deeply into particular themes given the never-ending lack of resources, but I still want to at least try to do slightly more in-depth exhibitions even though they won't be exactly how I want them.  I'm looking at them as a starting point for bigger things.

Enough of my blabbing about the basic stuff, I want to give some more details about the exhibition itself.  It came together nicely, or at least, it was the one I worked most on with the possible exception of Sweet Tooth (still want to revisit that one!)  I really wanted to get interviews with the key people behind the illustrations, so I put my crippling fear of rejection aside and boldly contacted Jeffrey Fulvimari (Stila's original illustrator), Caitlin Dinkins (illustrator during Stila's early aughts heyday) and Naoko Matsunaga (who took over for Dinkins in 2009).  While I was disappointed at not hearing back from two of the three, if only one responded, I was glad it was Jeffrey since I've been following him for a while on Instagram and I love his approach to art and his personality.  He is quite the character!  It ended up giving me so much confidence I reached out to the grand poobah herself and my curatorship namesake, Jeanine Lobell.  Yes, I actually DM'ed the founder of Stila on Instagram and asked if she'd be up for an interview.  And...and...are you sitting down??  You really need to.  Okay, now that you're sitting and won't have far to fall in case you faint, I can tell you that she agreed to do it!! 

Screenshot of DM

Not only that, she actually answered all of my interview questions!!  You have no idea how ecstatic I was to finally be heard by a major industry figure.  Took over a decade but I finally made contact with a big name!  So that was most exciting, easily one of the most exciting things to happen in the Museum's 11-year history.  And her answers were really good too, I've incorporated them throughout the exhibition so make sure to read through.

As for the items, I didn't take photos of everything in my collection because again, too overwhelming.  The Museum has over 130 Stila items, nearly all of which feature the girls.  I mean...

Makeup Museum - Stila storage

The photos I did take have purposely plain backgrounds because I wanted the emphasis to be on the illustrations.  I tried to have a good mix of memorabilia and the makeup itself.  I even had to iron a few items.

Makeup Museum - Stila memorabilia

I also included a couple photos of things that I don't actually own but are important in getting a full picture (haha) of the illustrations. I'm pleased with how the sections are arranged, and I must thank my husband for organizing them so perfectly in addition to designing the whole site.  I'm thinking of adding a section called Soundbites, a repository of quotes from the both the beauty community and general public telling me why they like the Stila girls or really anything related to the brand, so be sure to email me or comment here.  I really wish I could have an app that would "Stila girl-ize" the user, i.e. you upload a picture of yourself and it would automatically generate a Stila girl style illustration of you, just like this.  And of course, if the Museum occupied a physical space I'd definitely hire an artist to do live drawings at the exhibition opening - how fun would that be?

So that about wraps it up!  Please take a look and tell me what you think of the new exhibition format

Quick post: ghosts of beauty exhibitions past

I'm not sure where I was from May through September of 2011, but I totally missed the news about an exhibition on the history of makeup at the Couven Museum in Germany.  Sponsored by Babor, the exhibition displayed cosmetic items from antiquity through today, with an emphasis on the late 20th century.  From the website:  "This exhibition takes a tour through the history of seductive cosmetics from antiquity to the present day. In cooperation with Babor Cosmetics, an internationally operating Aachen family business, a selection of objects and paintings relating to the culture of cosmetics will be on show. Visitors will also get an insight in the fast-moving yet highly characteristic trends of fashionable beauty and cosmetics from the 1950s to the present day."

Poudre "Pompeia", Pappdose 19. Jh., L.T. Piver, Paris, Slg. Ilse Sommer, Foto: Königs
(image from couven-museum.de)

I tried to translate as much as I could from the brochure.  It seems like it was a bit light on the historical aspects and a little heavy on the business/advertising side - there seemed to be a LOT of guest speakers from Babor for the various panels and Babor representatives hosting tours and workshops for an additional fee - but the topics were pretty interesting:  body care in ancient Greece, Cleopatra's bathing routine, and an exploration of beauty ideals through the centuries.

I'm not sure whether I would have made the effort to travel internationally to see it, since it does sound more commercial than educational and it seemed to be relatively small-scale (I have the sense it only took up one or two rooms), but it's at least nice to know there was another cosmetics-related museum exhibition. 

I'm working away on various exhibitions of my own so I hope to have more in-depth content soon.  In the meantime, have you ever been to Germany?  I need to go, if only just to experience the Lipstick Museum in Berlin...but that's a post for another time. ;)

MM Summer 2019 exhibition

MM summer.2019.poster.2pp

As you might have guessed from the lack of activity around these parts, I am sad to report that things have remained quite difficult on the personal front.  I don't want to go into details, but let me just say that finding quality, affordable ongoing care for stroke patients is a never-ending quest that eats up every second of spare time and mental energy, not to mention the time spent traveling to another state to visit at least once a week.  And being forced to sell your parents' home where they've lived for over 40 years is far more gut-wrenching than I ever expected, despite bracing myself for it for years.  :(  In spite of all this I was determined to put up a summer exhibition, especially given that I haven't done an exhibition in an entire year!  It's more or less a mishmash of themes from previous years:  the Greek/Mediterranean feel and bathing beauty are from the 2016 exhibition, fruit and critters are from summer 2017, tropical jungle palms/flowers and birds from 2015 and 2018, respectively, and shells are a nod to the one of the themes from 2013.  This doesn't mean I don't have ideas, it's just that I couldn't do the more in-depth theme I wanted this year.  As you'll see, I also made up for the total absence of mermaids in last year's summer exhibition.

The Makeup Museum summer 2019 exhibition

The Makeup Museum summer 2019 exhibition

The Makeup Museum summer 2019 exhibition

Starting at the top row, left to right:

Some vintage shell-themed pretties, along with a fairly bizarre Cutex ad.  Oddly enough, this is only one of 5 cosmetics ads from the '50s/60s that feature women's heads underwater.  I'm sure there's a lot more to be said about that...

Vintage Cutex ad and shell compacts

Stratton shell compact

Vintage shell compact


Loved this Bésame Peter Pan Mermaid Lagoon collection!  Kind of an odd choice for a holiday release, but when we're talking about vintage-inspired mermaids the seasonal appropriateness doesn't matter.  I just wish I could have fit more of the collection on the shelf - the fragrance and lipstick are adorable.

Bésame mermaid lagoon

Besame mermaid lagoon palette

Besame shell highlighter


Another brand that turned the tables on traditional holiday motifs in 2018 was Tarte.  While the pineapple palette is cute, it quickly became a source of rage for me - you'll see why later. 

Tarte pineapple palette

Tarte pineapple throne

Tarte pineapple eyelash curler

I cannot believe I haven't featured this 1956 Lancôme ad until now.  Equally unbelievable was the fact that sometime last fall I scored this delightful compact featuring a happy bunch of mer-people.

Lancome skincare ad, 1956

Vogue Vanities mermaid compact, ca. 1950s

Second row, left to right:

Millions of peaches, peaches for me...how pretty is this Sulwhasoo Peach Blossom Utopia collection?!  I wanted to write about it last spring when it was released, but couldn't find a ton of info on the artist so I scrapped it. 

Sulwhasoo Peach Blossom

Sulwhasoo Peach Blossom


This is kind of a sad shelf for me.  It looks okay but it was not what I had planned.

Rodin Olio Lusso mermaid collection

Rodin Olio Lusso mermaid highlighter


During the exhibition's installation, as I was hammering in the Cutex ad over the top left shelf, the Tarte pineapple palette fell and hit almost every object below on its way down.  If you've ever seen "The Price is Right", it was sort of like a destructive version of Plinko.  I was on the top step of a ladder so I couldn't move quickly enough to catch the palette before it destroyed some items in its path.  The end result was the complete breakage of a piece from one of my most beloved collections:  the body oil from last summer's Rodin Olio Lusso x Donald Robertson mermaid collection.  The powders in the Tarte palette also shattered; fortunately I had intended on always displaying the palette closed, and the rug did not sustain much damage.  Plus the oil is still available so I will order another.  In the meantime I could at least display the box for it.  I'm also grateful the mermaid highlighting powder didn't fall and break as that item is long gone.

exhibition installation disaster

exhibition installation disaster

exhibition installation disaster

exhibition installation disaster

I picked up these beauties from Richard Hudnut last year.  The discoloration you see towards the bottom of the Sweet Orchid box (right below the Hudnut name) is from the aforementioned oil spill - that area was in pristine condition prior to the disaster.

Richard Hudnut Gardenia and Sweet Orchid powder boxes


This was a sneaky but lovely release from Laura Mercier.  I haven't purchased anything Museum-worthy from the brand since possibly 2009.  As soon as I saw the heavenly blue and gold swirls I was sold.  Then I found out an artist was behind the beautiful marbling effect, which made it even better.  If I have time I'd like to get a post up about her work because it's really gorgeous.  MAC's version is more generic/less artistic, but still pretty.

Laura Mercier bronzer

MAC Electric Wonder highlighter

MAC Electric Wonder lipstick


Third row, left to right:

If you follow me on Instagram you might remember how much I adored this little gal.  Now her princess counterpart swam in to keep her company! 

Vintage princess mermaid lipstick holder

Unfortunately she also sustained some injury due to the Tarte palette fall, but at least it's only the side of the holder.

Vintage mermaid lipstick holder

I remember being both excited and dismayed at the release of Too-Faced Tutti Frutti collection last August.  While I loved the plethora of pineapples - my favorite fruit and one of my favorite motifs - I was disappointed it was released a year after the Museum's summer 2017 exhibition as it would have been perfect for the fruity theme.

Too-Faced Tutti Frutti pineapple

Too-Faced pineapple highlighting drops

I really didn't think Anna Sui could top the jellyfish-laden aquarium collection from 2017, but here we are.  Just precious.

Anna Sui summer 2019 makeup

I love the makeup, but the mini fragrance was also insanely cute.

Anna Sui summer 2019 makeup

Anna Sui summer 2019 mermaid compact

Anna Sui summer 2019 mermaid blush

Anna Sui summer 2019 mermaid highlighter


Here are the images I included in the background so you can see the mermaid print better.


(images from modaoperandi.com)

The Volupté seahorse compact was featured in the summer 2014 exhibition.  This year, I was able to add Elgin's beautiful ruby and turquoise rhinestone encrusted version, along with an original ad.  Someday I hope incorporate a sparkly vintage Ciner compact and Estée Lauder's more recent one.

Vintage seahorse compacts

Elgin compact ad, 1949

Bottom row, left to right:

Guerlain truly spoiled us this year with their Terracotta bronzers. 

Guerlain Terracotta 2019

Guerlain terracotta bronzers 2019


Here are some better versions of the vase and wreath photos.  It's a shame the Met didn't have a shot of the top of this vase, which has the most similar pattern to the Guerlain Hestia Island bronzer.

Greek oil flask

Golden laurel wreath
(images from metmuseum.org and getty.edu)

Uh oh, a vintage mermaid lipstick army has invaded the Museum!  But I think the bathing beauty by Boots 17 should be able to keep them from misbehaving.  (Unless they're vicious killer mermaids who feast on human flesh).

Vintage Boots 17 and New Fashion lipsticks

Vintage mermaid lipsticks


I simply couldn't pass up the pattern and texture of YSL's summer palettes.  Clarins, true to form, served up another gorgeous bronzer as well.

YSL summer 2019 palettes

Clarins summer 2019 bronzer

Clarins 2019 bronzer

Lastly we have LM Ladurée's summer collection, which was stunning inside and out and smells heavenly too. 

LM Ladurée summer 2019

LM Ladurée summer 2019


So that about wraps it up for summer 2019!  Thank you for bearing with a regurgitation of previous summer themes.  Despite the lack of originality I still think it was visually appealing.  What piece was your favorite?  Are you looking forward to next year's exhibition, which already has a theme and title?  I'm debating whether to put in a few more pieces I couldn't fit this time around even though they're not quite in line with the concept I've chosen...but I guess I have a whole year to think about it.  ;) 

Museum spotlight: Kao and Kanebo

This will be a short post as I don't have much information on these, but I still feel the need to highlight other cosmetics museums around the globe and online.  A couple years back Project Vanity led us on a virtual tour of the Kao Museum in Tokyo and I've been wanting to write about it ever since.  Kao, a global company based in Japan, has roots stretching back to 1887 and now distributes many lines including Bioré, Molton Brown, Jergens, and Kanebo.  Like other historic Japanese beauty companies such as Shiseido and Pola, Kao has its own museum, which is divided into three sections.  The first examines the "culture of cleanliness" from ancient through modern times, i.e. traditional practices related to personal hygiene including bathing, laundry and yes, makeup. 

Kao Museum

The second section pays homage to Kao's history and includes products and advertisements dating from the launch of the company's soap (their first product) in 1890 till today.

Kao Museum

The third section is a "communication plaza" which honestly just sounds like a glorified store.  "Peruse exhibits of the latest products that represent Kao product lines, use devices that assess the state of your skin and hair, and experience first-hand the workings of key features of Kao products."  Eh.  

Kao Museum

Most of the Kao Museum would grab my attention, but what I'd give my eye teeth to see is their display of all the Kanebo Milano compacts!  If I ever visit Japan you know I'll have to take a tour.

Kanebo Milano compacts at the Kao Museum
(images from kao.com)

Also, while I was trying to find more information and photos for the Kao Museum, I stumbled onto Kanebo's online museum of vintage compacts.  I have many questions about this which I will get to later, but according to the website, the Kanebo company started a collection of vintage compacts in 1990 and now has 1,074 items in its collection.  I was really wowed at the variety and quality of the objects, which date from the 1850s-1950s and span 22 countries of origin.  Everything is arranged chronologically so I thought I'd share some of my favorite pieces from each era.  First up is this beautiful late 19th century wristlet from Russia, which was most likely owned by a member of the Tzar's family.

Russian compact/purse, c. 1885

These two items are extremely unique:  a bracelet and matching necklace from Nepal.  These are from about 1900 and belonged to Nepalese royalty.  Apparently these pieces served as the catalyst for starting the Kanebo collection.  I believe only the bracelet stores powder.

Makeup bracelet from Nepal

Makeup necklace from Nepal

I adore this exquisite blue enamel butterfly compact from Austria.

Butterfly compact, c. 1920

A three-tiered compact like this is something I've only seen in collector's guides. 

Tiered compact, c. 1923

This red, blue and black compact is a stunning example of Art Deco design.

Art Deco compact, c. 1924

This is another great example of a famous design.  Fan-shaped compacts had a moment in the 1940s thanks to Wadsworth, and this one is by the Pink Lady company (which, as you may remember, I wasn't able to turn up much information on.)

Pink Lady fan-shaped compact

You know I have a weakness for novelty compacts, and this blue starry Kigu is one of my favorites.

Kigu flying saucer compact

Naturally I have many questions for Kanebo regarding this collection.  First, where are these compacts physically located and stored?  As far as I know they're not displayed anywhere except online.  A museum space for their parent company already exists, so it would make sense to perhaps house them somewhere in the Kao Museum.  Second, who at Kanebo decided to start a vintage compact collection and why?  The website vaguely states that the compacts' "historical background and the culture of women’s makeup are being researched together with the era, materials, and country of manufacture...While valuing the history and culture of 'beauty,' Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. will continue to research beauty and offer further proposals for the future.  Through this collection, we hope you feel a sense of 'women and beauty' and 'the pleasure of applying makeup."  So no real answers there.  Finally, who is doing the research on these items and where are they getting their information?  I'm assuming it's a Kanebo staff member or group, but I also wonder if they've used an outside consultant or researcher.  And while most of the information seems correct, some of it doesn't seem to have any evidence to back it up.  For example, they claim this Scottie dog compact depicts FDR's beloved terrier Fala.  I mean it's plausible since Fala popularized the Scottie motif, but is it actually the famous dog?  Plus Fala's birth year was 1940 so that means the Scottie craze didn't fully hit until that decade, and this compact is listed as being from the early '30s.  If the compact does indeed use Fala as a model, Kanebo has its date wrong.

vintage Scottie dog compact
(images from kanebo-compact.com)

Also, the "flying saucer" Kigu compact above is incorrectly listed as coming from the USA - Kigu is a British brand.  So I'm not sure how reliable all of the information is.  In any case, it was great to see another fabulous online collection of vintage pieces, and I admire the more "museum" feel of it versus, say, the blog format of the Makeup Museum.

Would you visit the Kao Museum?  And what do you think about the Makeup Museum blog adopting a more formal virtual museum design?