JEWISH MUSEUM EXHIBIT HELENA RUBINSTEIN “BEAUTY IS POWER” BY: Rochelle Zaltzman
New York, October 31, 2014. The first museum exhibit to explore the ideas, innovations and influence of the legendary cosmetics entrepeneur Helena Rubinstein (1872-1965) has opened today at the Jewish Museum and will run until March 22, 2015.
As the head of a cosmetics empire that extended across four continents, she was, arguably, the first modern self-made woman magnate who was ahead of her time in her embrace of cultural and artistic diversity. She helped break down the status quo of taste by blurring boundaries between commerce, art, fashion, beauty and design.
This fascinating exhibit traces her life from her birthplace in Poland to Australia and to the United States where she became a wealthy and influential businesswoman and art collector. She cultivated an eclectic style, becoming increasingly intrigued by Surrealism, with its endless mutable fantasies. Madame, as she was frequently referred to, said: “I like different kinds of beautiful things and I’m not afraid to use them in unconventional ways.”
The Helena Rubinstein Salon was a place not only to improve a woman’s looks, but also to polish her standards of taste so they would express her own personality. In this sense, the euphemism “putting on a face” assumes a dimension of inner discovery and fantasy quite removed from its superificial connotations. The kaleidoscopic variety of styles in the decor of her salons and homes all over the world served to level snobbish aesthetic taste and expand the notion of who and what could be considered beautiful.