Paris’ Quai Branly Museum unveils it’s latest collection: The Art of Hair.
Paris’ Quai Branly Museum unveils it’s latest collection: The Art of Hair. On display until next summer, it’s a departure for the museum that specializes in arts and civilization from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the America’s. However this exhibit makes an exception and includes Europe. Why the change? Because all humans have hair, it’s a universal occurrence, that links all societies. It’s an exhibit with a singular approach.
The exhibit’s prologue displays a large variety of hairstyles that characterize different cultures. The busts of aristocrats from the 18th century rub shoulders with 19th century bronze statues depicting nobles from other cultures.
The next and perhaps weakest part of the exhibit brings us to the ‘cliches’. The blonds are superficial, the brunettes adventurous, the redheads diabolical. To illustrate the theme of loss: shaved women under occupation, or Araki, the Japanese photographer who scatters strands on the thighs and breasts of young women.
But the exhibit is at it’s best when addressing the issue of hair and social politics. On display: a long-haired Picasso who vowed in 1944 not to cut his hair until France was liberated. And there’s also the question of identity: using one’s hair to create a network.
The last part of the exhibit is devoted to spirituality....when hair keeps its power even after death. A theme that is at the heart of the Quai Branly museum. Suddenly similarities are seen between the shrunken heads of Jivaro and the head of Brigit Bardot, between Kanak embalmers and the A-list hairstylists.
Hair doesn’t have one sense, it has many: when it is long it can represent both ‘power’ and ‘rebellion.’ It’s the recurring theme of the exhibit: hair and all of it’s contradictions.