New York’s New Makeup Museum Offers a Look at the History of Beauty, Particularly as Defined by Hollywood

New Yorks New Makeup Museum
Courtesy of Makeup Museum

As co-founders of the newly opened Makeup Museum in New York City, Rachel Goodwin, Caitlin Collins and Doreen Bloch knew there was a need for a permanent institution celebrating all things beauty. That vision became even clearer this summer when the trio was offered access to seven original journals belonging to the late legendary makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin via his protégé, Troy Surratt. Spanning 1983 to 1994, the personal notebooks chronicle Aucoin’s journey in Hollywood while lending his artistry and signature sculpted look to the most famous faces of his time, including Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Cher and Cindy Crawford. 

“It was a kismet moment, and it was shocking nobody had done this so far,” says Goodwin, a celebrity makeup artist in her own right, of the never-before-seen journals, which are preserved in the museum’s digital archives. “Anyone who sees his journals and spends time with them can be so inspired by them.”

It’s just one of the ways the institution’s triumvirate hopes to shine an unprecedented spotlight on the makeup and beauty industry in one immersive, state-of-the-art space — a color-drenched 3,000-square-foot one at that — located a stone’s throw from the Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District.

“Makeup history is something that is so central to how humans interact with one another, and there hasn’t been, in our view, enough study around that. It’s one of the oldest human rituals,” explains Bloch, the museum’s executive director. The force behind beauty data firm Poshly, Bloch dreamed up the idea for a permanent space “where beauty lovers can come together” two years ago before connecting with like-minded industry veterans Goodwin and Collins, former editor of makeup.com. 

With its anticipated May debut pushed back due to the pandemic, the museum opened its doors Sept. 1 with its inaugural six-month exhibit, “Pink Jungle: 1950s Makeup in America,” which explores a pivotal era in the beauty world. Focusing on the marketing and packaging innovations of the time, the show also dives into the ultra-feminine beauty ideals that arose during the period, made iconic by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo (whose boudoir beauty artifacts are featured in the show alongside their original skin care prescriptions from Dr. Erno Laszlo). 

Also on display: a tribute to Hollywood beauty pioneer Max Factor, beloved by clients including Lucille Ball, Bette Davis and Jean Harlow. Factor was awarded an honorary Oscar for his innovations in film makeup. Future exhibits will explore other time periods, trends and artist retrospectives. In keeping with COVID regulations, all displays are touchless, masks and temperature checks are required, and tickets must be purchased in advance for timed entry.

“This industry has always held such mystery and something magical, and I wanted to be a part of it since I was a little girl,” says Goodwin, whose clients include Emma Stone and January Jones. “To showcase makeup artists as artists in their own right, who have contributed to pop cultural and to cultural history in a real way that I think people don’t quite yet recognize, is going to be so impactful on the way people see the world.”