Beloved Hair

Trophies and trifles

Exhibition poster © musée du quai Branly - Click to enlarge, open in a new window

FROM TUESDAY 18th SEPTEMBER 2012 TO SUNDAY 14th JULY 2013

  • West mezzanine
  • Collections ticket

CURATOR 

  • Yves Le Fur, Director of the Heritage and Collections Department at the musée du quai Branly

 

Events related to the exhibition

visits, catalogue and events related to the exhibition

Exhibition trailer

About the exhibition

At the intersection of anthropology, the history of ancient and contemporary art, fashion and manners, the exhibition examines individual issues of intimacy and sociability through the universal theme of hair.

It begins by addressing the idea that individuals and social groups display personality through hairstyle. This is presented first in terms of frivolity: competing blonds, brunettes or redheads, straight or frizzy depicted in a wide range of classical paintings, sculptures and author photographs. Comparing the coquetries of Papua New Guinea, those of the beautiful urban African or haute coiffure artists, the exhibition moves towards the idea of a human material to be shaped and sculpted, a medium both for knowledge and the relativity of beauty but also an object of loss, a symbol of passing time, illness and death.

Physical memories, relics, talismans, hair retains the aura and energy of its owner. A large part of the exhibition is devoted to these mana which have given birth, in the world, to many "magical" objects or artefacts endowed with powers that we can appropriate.

The issue of remains and of trophies is thus examined and more broadly the status of particular "objects" that straddle the borders between the exasperating and the unbearable. As a result, our own categories are questioned on the basis of universal experience.

Pictures of the exhibition

Exhibition synopsis

Buste de femme noire, Charles Cordier, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle. - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Bust of black woman, Charles Cordier, National Museum of Natural History © MNHN, Daniel Ponsard

Prologue: blacks/whites  

Ancient, modern and contemporary European busts, but also non-European busts: their juxtaposition invites you to appreciate the great variety of hairstyles which characterise different cultures.

In this ethnic gallery bronzes and marbles in black and white, make up a chequerboard displaying multiple combinations and viewpoints. Busts of Louis XIV and Marie Josephine of Savoy from the National Museum of the Châteaux of Versailles and Trianon stand next to busts of black and Chinese women, works by Charles Cordier, from the collections of the National Museum of Natural History.

L'équipe des bouffant belles lors du départ d'une course, 1964 © photographie Neil Barr - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
The team of bouffant beauties at the start of a race, 1964 © photograph Neil Barr
Mkupuk Eba, série Hairstyle, 1974. Tirage argentique sur papier baryté, J.D.'Okhai Ojeikere © musée du quai Branly - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Mkupuk Eba, Hairstyle series, 1974. Silver print on baryta paper, J.D.'Okhai Ojeikere © musée du quai Branly

Frivolity?

Following a course similar to that of life, the exhibition begins with the frivolity and carefreeness of fresh starts, driven by whims and desires. But is this mere frivolity? Is it not something more? But isn't the amount of care, attention, research and fickleness also a sign of the vitality which can overcome the banal and the ordinary and hence escape ugliness?

The exhibition moves from the sparkling world of western depictions towards those of other cultures. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, reproductions, objects and multimedia formats express the impermanence of these images, which are held out to us like mirrors revealing how we manage our appearance and our destiny.

This first part of the exhibition covers three areas: Metamorphoses and permutations, The colours of the norm, Seduction. The juxtaposition of a great diversity of works and objects reveals to us the different physical and symbolic forms that hair can take. This includes a series of photographs by Samuel Fosso and J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, an installation by Annette Messager, Rois Francs painted by Jean-Louis Bézard, photographs of actresses and singers by Sam Lévin and paintings by Ingres, Boilly, Charles Maurin and Jean-Jacques Henner.

Loss

The biological life of hair leads to its loss. Among individuals and societies, many situations involve hair loss, whether this loss is accepted or resisted and evokes, in reliquary arrangements, the absence and the memory of a person.

 

Emma, relique, circa 1900 © Collection Jean-Jacques Lebel - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Emma, relic, circa 1900 © Collection Jean-Jacques Lebel
S.E. médaillon, circa 1900 © Collection Jean-Jacques Lebel - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
S.E. medallion, circa 1900 © Collection Jean-Jacques Lebel

 

"Loss" is expressed through three areas: Accepted loss, Memories and Enforced loss. Among the pieces on show: photographs by Françoise Huguier, Man Ray and Nobuyoshi Araki, the hair of Papuan initiates cut on their return from a long retreat of initiation and a piece of hair from a young Carmelite nun given by André Breton to Jean-Jacques Lebel. See also: medallions and brooches lent by the Caranavalet Museum, objects from the Jean-Jacques Lebel collection, photographs by Robert Capa and Annie Leibovtiz.

Coiffe de chef Fang, Pahouin, avant 1899, Gabon, Afrique © musée du quai Branly, photo Claude Germain - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Fang chieftain’s headdress, Pahouin, before 1899, Gabon, Africa © musée du quai Branly, photograph Claude Germain
Coiffe de chef Fang, Pahouin, avant 1899, Gabon, Afrique (détail) © musée du quai Branly, photo Claude Germain - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Fang chieftain’s headdress, Pahouin, before 1899, Gabon, Africa (detail) © musée du quai Branly, photograph Claude Germain

The power of hair

Hair care in non-European cultures similarly reflects issues of self-awareness and of seduction, whether it is a question of extensions or of decoration mixed with natural materials and skilful use of colour. 

Hair which is part of souvenir objects is laden with significance which evokes the memory or power of a person, especially in societies which practise trophy taking or head hunting. Hair becomes a material laden with the powers of its former owner and is worn as a powerful adornment. Trophies, scalps and other things are believed to stir up an energy which is most usually associated with a culture’s fertility, with the group’s prosperity and with peaceful relations with the Ancestors.

This last section comprises four parts: Adornments, Powerful ornaments and magic charms, Trophies, Ancestors and the Beyond. Chosen mainly from the collections of the Musée de quai Branly, some one hundred objects made of hair, from the simple to the spectacular, cause vanished bodies to seem increasingly substantial. A tension thus exists between living presence and remains, disappearance and survival, frivolity and death.

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