Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power

04/09/15 to 10/31/18
Boca Raton Museum of Art

New exhibition opens at Boca Raton Museum of Art April 21, 2015

Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power, the first museum exhibition to explore the ideas, innovations, and influence of the legendary cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein (1872-1965), will open at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL, on April 21, 2015, and remain on view through July 12, 2015. The exhibition is organized by the Jewish Museum, New York  Programming and events schedule is available at www.bocamuseum.org.

The name Helena Rubinstein conjures up elegant images of international beauty salons and fabulously packaged cosmetics that rivaled Elizabeth Arden.  Madame, as she was known, changed the way women envisioned themselves, as she empowered them to define and assert their individuality at the beginning of the early twentieth century.  This is just a dab of blush compared to the depth and breadth of Rubinstein’s accomplishments including visionary art collector, entrepreneur, and one of the first female self-made magnates.

Rubinstein’s lush, inspiring story comes to life – and to Boca Raton via the Jewish Museum in New York City -- in the varied and significant exhibition, Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power, organized by curator Mason Klein.

According to Mr. Klein, “Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power explores how Madame helped break down the status quo of taste by blurring boundaries between commerce, art, fashion, beauty, and design.”

The exhibition features works of art, photographs, and ephemera which reveal how Rubinstein’s unique style and pioneering approaches to business challenged conservative taste and heralded a modern notion of beauty, democratized and accessible to all.

Rubinstein’s famed art collection was dispersed at auction in 1966. Art from this collection is reunited for the exhibition including works by Pablo Picasso, Elie Nadelman, and Henri Matisse, along with sculptures from her peerless collection of African art.  She was stellar at self-promotion and commissioned her portrait by leading artists of the day, such as Marie Laurencin and Andy Warhol.

Picasso, one of Rubinstein’s favorite artists, completed a suite of drawings of Madame in 1955, 12 of which will be on view.  Picasso’s drawings captured her imperious manner and bearing along with her finery, jewelry, and famous chignon.

Rubinstein adorned herself with exquisite jewelry (luscious pins, bracelets, and necklaces) and clothing designed by such renowned couturiers as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Paul Poiret. Her unique style is represented in photographs and paintings of Madame throughout the show.

The exhibition’s title comes from one of Rubinstein’s early advertisements that touted “Beauty Is Power” as its slogan in 1904, showcasing Rubinstein’s distinctive brand of commercial savvy and inherent feminism.  Vintage advertisements, cosmetics products, and promotional items from her business are part of the exhibition.

Rubinstein amassed one of the most acclaimed collections of African art of the early twentieth century.  She treated this work as “high art” before it was commonplace to do so, displaying these sculptures in her homes and beauty salons.  The collection shows off Madame’s interest in a broad range of cultures and traditions along with variety of form.  Among the works on view in this section are a nineteenth-century Fang mask from Gabon, a Senufo seated female figure, and a pair of sublimely carved male and female wood combs from the Ivory Coast.

According to Klein, “the repetition of faces and masks is a leitmotif in Rubinstein’s collecting, with its emphasis on portraits and heads.”

Chaja Rubinstein, as she was originally named, was born in Krakow in 1872.  She called herself Helena after the great beauty of ancient myth and began breaking barriers at a young age.  She fled the prospect of a traditionally arranged marriage common among eastern European Jews in the late 1800s. She traveled from Krakow to Vienna, arriving in Australia in 1896. There, she established her business, Helena Rubinstein & Co, producing popular skin creams.

“At the turn of the century the use of cosmetics – associated with the painted faces of actresses and prostitutes – was widely frowned upon by the middle class.  A model of independence, Rubinstein rejected this, producing and marketing the means for ordinary women to transform themselves.  Her business challenged the myth of beauty and taste as inborn, or something to which only the wealthy were entitled.  By encouraging women to define themselves as self- expressive individuals, Rubinstein contributed to their empowerment,” says Mason Klein.

Exhibition Related Programming:

Museum partner and exhibit sponsor, Saks Fifth Avenue, will host a Tea & Talk event at 2:00 PM on Friday, April 17, 2015, entitled The Life and Times of Helena Rubinstein.  Following a 2:00 PM tea time, a lecture will be presented by art historian Marlene Strauss at Saks Fifth Avenue, 5800 Glades Road, Second Floor, Boca Raton, FL 33431.  Tickets are $75 for members and $95 for non-members.  To RSVP please call 561-392-2500, ext. 213 or email [email protected].  This event is graciously produced by Saks Fifth Avenue and host committee: Terry Adelman, Nicole Edeiken, Marilyn Davimos, Marjorie Goldbaum, Peg Anderson Greenspon and Diane Miller.

Beauty Night by Saks Fifth Avenue from 5:30 to 8:00 PM will be held on April 30, May 28, and June 25, 2015 at the Museum.  Saks Fifth Avenue Boca Raton will highlight beauty trends and products and provide exclusive raffles prizes. Attendees will enjoy music and light refreshments free with admission. 

The Boca Raton Museum of Art School will hold a Fashion Week workshop for students inspired by the work of renowned whimsical shoe designer, Sophia Webster.  On May 7, 2015, exhibit sponsor Saks Fifth Avenue will host the designer in the Museum for cocktail party and meet & greet event showcasing her artful shoes and illustrations. The event will benefit the Art School Scholarship Fund and will take place from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.  Tickets are $40 for members and $50 for non-members.  Designer Sophia Webster will judge the illustration entries from participating design students.

The Power & the Glory, a 2007 documentary of entrepreneurs Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, global rivals and cultural icons who created an industry and permanently altered the way we view ourselves will be screened on Sunday, June 14, 2015 from 3:00 to 5:00 PM.  Free with price of museum admission.

Concurrently on exhibition at the Museum are Izhar Patkin: The Wandering Veil and Shannon Plumb: What A Character.  Also on view is Hammock Pointe: Express Yourself, through June 14, 2015, an exhibition of student portraits and written narratives from the third graders at Hammock Pointe Elementary School.  The work is centered on ekphrasis, a technique of writing vivid descriptions of art.

Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power is made possible by The Jerome L. Greene Foundation.

Major support for the exhibition is also provided by the Eugene M. and Emily Grant Family Foundation and The David Berg Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by the Leon Levy Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Helena Rubinstein Fund/The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation, the Helena Rubinstein Philanthropic Fund at The Miami Foundation, and Ealan and Melinda Wingate.

The catalogue is funded through the Dorot Publication Fund and a gift from Helena Rubinstein, L’Oréal Luxe.

The exhibition and its related programs at the Boca Raton Museum of Art are made possible through the generous support of Dr. Nicole Edeiken, Peg Anderson Greenspon, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Founded in 1950 by the Art Guild of Boca Raton, the Museum’s collections, innovative exhibitions, and educational programming are international in scope and reflect the creative expression of the Florida region.  In 2001, the Boca Raton Museum of Art moved into its new home in the heart of Mizner Park.  The Art School, located nearby on West Palmetto Park Road (the Museum’s original location), offers more than 100 weekly classes in a variety of media for adults and children.  The Artists’ Guild remains a strong auxiliary of the Museum with more than 350 artist-members who actively exhibit throughout the area and whose work may be seen at the Artists’ Guild Gallery on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.

The Museum is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 AM until 5 PM, on Thursdays from 10 AM until 8 PM, Saturdays and Sundays from Noon until 5 PM and is closed on Mondays and holidays.  Adult admission is $12, Senior Citizens are $10, children age 12 and under and students with IDs are free.  An extensive list of programming and events is available online at www.bocamuseum.org.

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Editor’s Note:  High-res images are available upon request.