Compact collector

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Helena Rubinstein with one of her masks from the Ivory Coast, 1934. Photo: George Maillard Kesslere. Helena Rubinstein Foundation Archives, Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY, Gladys Marcus Library, Special Collections

“Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power”, opening tomorrow at the Jewish Museum in New York (31 October-22 March), takes its snappy title from one of the cosmetics maker’s early advertisements. But while many know the late great Helena as an indefatigable tastemaker and businesswoman—she once famously said “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones”—the show also features works from her extensive art collection. Her progressive mixing of African and Oceanic art with Modern masters (including Joan Miró, Max Ernst and Leonor Fini) stands out, as does her preoccupation with her self-image—portraits appear prominently, including 12 witty drawings from a Picasso series in conté crayon. The exhibition’s glamorous design touches, such as an intimate circular entrance space entirely curtained in forest green, reflect Rubinstein’s savvy for interior design and decoration, while on a (much) smaller scale, a presentation of seven miniature period rooms, displayed in her New York flagship salon, add a bit of whimsy to the show. Like the four-foot-ten magnate herself, sometimes good things come in small packages.

From In The Frame
Published online: 30 October 2014

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