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Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power (Jewish Museum) Hardcover – October 20, 2014
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"Madame" [Helena Rubenstein] surly was not alone among the great exploiters - collectors - of African and Oceanic "art" works.
She also marveled about Picasso. Undeniably, Pablo Picasso certainly obtained his ideas from Africans, while attempting to disguise and lie about it! Many of Rubenstein's most acclaimed early 20th century items of African and Oceanic sculptures amount to little more than cherished personal tourist curios of the day... Not necessarily genuine cultural relics, regardless of her manner of displaying these items within her homes and beauty salons.
Cultural beauty during the colonial eras, especially during the 18-20th centuries, remain an indefatigable and pejoratively ingrained notion regarding the subject of "beauty" today... As if true standards of beauty did not exist until "whites" came along and defined it. For example, women of the Sudan - ancient Kush - have always heavily guarded their rare gems and perfume ingredients. Ancient Sudanese women were deeply proud of their high powered aromatic arsenals and adornments. They expanded their trade routes from the Nubian mountains, clear across the Red Sea, to Saudi Arabia and the wealth and substance of their commodities were well beyond any seen or experienced today in the modern worlds. Helena Rubenstein surly has not pioneered or engineered cosmetics or beauty, but rather *re-introduced* and redressed such for those which share her own cultural imperatives, narratives and standards!
And, what of the 19th century entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist, Madam CJ Walker?
Madam CJ Walker's reality presents a much stronger testament, yet, without the guise behind African cultural masks and figurative carvings, "On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker."
I get it, Rubinstein was a wealthy and influential Jewish businesswoman with salons worldwide.
This 168-page exhibition catalogue, "Beauty Is Power", written by the curator [Klein] for the Jewish Museum is simple trifle.
It chronicles an eclectic Jewish woman's quest with cosmetics, targeting "white" and Jewish women transitioning into work professions, while attempting to connect cultural narratives - particularly African masks and faces - as advertising slogans in addition to her other artistic wiles. It isn't credible nor inspiring.