Poshly, a WI Harper Group-backed beauty research company, opens the world’s first museum dedicated to makeup. The Makeup Museum is dedicated to exploring the history and impact of beauty through events and interactive exhibits.
Though initially delayed by the pandemic, Poshly CEO Doreen Bloch, was able to bring together beauty industry veterans, Caitlin Collins (former editor of Makeup.com) and Rachel Goodwin (celebrity makeup artist) to create this experience for the public.
New York’s first Makeup Museum, an immersive, interactive concept focusing on touch and experimentation, was slated to open in May. Its premiere exhibition, “Pink Jungle: 1950s Makeup in America,” would encourage visitors to take part in experiences like mixing their own makeup or indulging in facials modeled on the ones given to Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo. Artifacts of that halcyon era, like elaborate compacts or rhinestone-studded lipstick cases, would be available for handling.
Then the pandemic hit.
All museums closed, of course, and have only recently started to reopen, with many new restrictions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, which reopened in late August, only takes timed tickets or reservations and requires masks and temperature checks. An interactive makeup museum, however, devoted to the idea of applying products to one’s face, seemed like another challenge to figure out altogether.
But on Tuesday, the Makeup Museum finally opened to the public after a complete rethink of the place. Sampling colors and handling objects were replaced with social distancing rules, enhanced technology and mask requirements. In addition to the usual creative demands of mounting an exhibit, the curators faced “so much uncertainty, so many more logistical challenges,” said Doreen Bloch, a museum co-founder.
The presentation of “Pink Jungle” was completely overhauled. Gone were any tactile elements that could not be immediately sanitized and the prop-heavy, Instagram-worthy photo stations that have become the hallmark of other new interactive museums like the Museum of Ice Cream and the KGB Espionage Museum. The “Mix Lab,” an interactive station where guests could create their own take-home beauty elixirs, was scrapped and the exhibition is now “an entirely touchless experience,” Ms. Bloch said
The thrust and look of the show, which focuses on the influence of the post-World War II era, with its red lips and signature cat eyes, remain the same. “The innovation of the 1950s really set the course for where makeup is today,” Ms. Bloch said.
But curators also realized, partly because of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, that they needed to highlight the “tension,” Ms. Bloch explained, between nostalgia for a glamorous era and the reality that it was “very Eurocentric, very white-centric, very heteronormative.”
As such, the museum is displaying vintage copies of Jet magazine, which spoke specifically to Black women, but offered problematic advertisements for skin-lightening creams and other products that centered on the beauty ideal of whiteness. A copy of a 1954 book called Femme Mimics: A Pictorial Record of Female Impersonation,offers a rare inside look at drag in an era when just wearing the clothing of the opposite sex was often still illegal.
Regarding other objects in the exhibition, like eyeliner tools, hair dryers, and lipstick cases that show the evolution of packaging and equipment, curators met via FaceTime this summer to discuss how to reconfigure socially distanced display cases, wall mountings and demonstration tables. Touch screens to guide visitors through the show were replaced with an interactive phone app, which is also a way to visit the museum remotely.
Ms. Bloch said that not opening the Makeup Museum was never an option. “Everyone was so unanimous that the community wants and needs this,” she said. “So many people have been just so face-to-face with technology every day, that there is this craving for just being in that holy space that is a museum.”
And even though the museum is leaning heavily on technology to ensure a safe visit, it still offers an “analog” world, Ms. Bloch said.
“Museums just have an ability to hone our attention and allow us to focus on items or stories that matter and tell history in a really profound way,” she continued. “That’s never been done before for beauty.”
| AboutMakeup Museum
The Makeup Museum is the world’s leading institution exploring the history of beauty and its ongoing impact on society. The Makeup Museum is dedicated to empowering all people to learn about and have fun with beauty. With a flagship opening in 2020, the Makeup Museum brings beauty to life through large-scale exhibits, events, and interactive and shoppable programming. Founding sponsors include Nordstrom, Givaudan, Erno Laszlo, Alcone Company, and CONAIR. For more information, visit www.makeupmuseum.com.
| About WI Harper Group:
WI Harper is a pioneer and leading cross-border venture capital firm investing in early and expansion stage companies globally. With offices in San Francisco, Beijing, and Taipei, the firm actively oversees more than $1 billion in assets under management. Since inception nearly three decades ago, WI Harper has invested in over 400 startups and has successfully experienced more than 100 IPO and M&A exits.
We look for innovative companies and visionary founders in healthcare, technology and sustainability fields where there are high synergies and meaningful value added cross selling opportunities. While our healthcare team is presently honing on bioinformatics and digital biology, our technology team is focused blockchain, big data, analytics, artificial intelligence, AR/VR, IoT, robotics, drones, autonomous driving, as well as digital media and green energy projects.