The Beauty Shop

Michael McMillan
25 January 2008 to 28 March 2013

The Beauty Shop

Black folks spend more on hair and skin care products than they do on food

Following the critically acclaimed West Indian Front Room, which attracted 35,000 visitors to the Geffrye Museum in 2005-06, Michael McMillan’s forthcoming exhibition at 198, explores practices and ideas related to the maintenance, transformation and representation of the black body in a post-colonial context.

The body is a contested space in contemporary consumer culture, where the desire and ability to racially transform hair, face, skin and body parts reflects a complex myriad of tropes around ideals of beauty. For people of African descent, in a globalised world, hair texture, skin complexion, full nose, lips and body shape, flesh out culturally and politically charged issues, that resonate in everyday life. The cosmetics industry in general and the High Street beauty shop in particular, crystallises desires to transform hair and lighten skin, which affects diverse communities.

The Beauty Shop exhibition will bring the performative qualities of High Street cosmetic consumer culture to the gallery space, as a mean to interact with visitors. The Beauty Shop will also explore the influences which shape our understanding of “beauty” and the representation of “self” by opening the lid on the personal and collective experience of hair, colour and the body. It will encourage visitors to engage with the multi- layered desires, practices, representations and ideologies mediated by the matrix of family, gender, sexuality, social status, education and cultural politics.

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