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Helena Rubinstein: Madame’s Collection
Text by Hélène Joubert.
A selection from the legendary makeup mogul’s African art collection, with new research and images
With her business acumen and ever-fresh sense of style, it is no wonder that Polish-American businesswoman Helena Rubinstein’s (1872-1965) was once one of the cosmetics industry’s most powerful moguls. Called “Madame” by those who worked with her, Rubinstein rose to global fame as a result of her wildly successful cosmetics empire, which she orchestrated from the inside out to great success even under the economic threat of the Great Depression.
Outside of her entrepreneurial endeavors, Rubinstein pursued philanthropy and art collection, becoming an influential patron of the arts and arbiter of taste. The vast assortment of pieces, ranging from designer furniture to historical artifacts, was particularly notable for its African holdings in addition to its lot of Oceanic, Indonesian and pre-Hispanic art. Hélène Joubert, head of the African heritage unit at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, led a long-term investigation into Rubinstein’s collection, succeeding in identifying and documenting nearly half of the 400 artifacts, 65 of which are reproduced in this volume, including Kota and Fang reliquaries, expressive masks from the Ivory Coast and the “Bangwa Queen” statuette made famous in the West by photographer Man Ray. Madame’s Collection is an evocative testament to Rubinstein’s discerning eye for beauty across history and culture, as well as a fascinating look into a varied selection of art from beyond the Western world.
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