Inside The Weirdly Fascinating French Museum Exhibit Devoted To Hair

Ivi po'o hair

Photo: Musée du Quai Branly

The Musée du Quai Branly is currently holding an art exhibition in Paris called, “The Art of Hair: Frivolities and Trophies.” The new show celebrates how hair has taken on many meanings in cultures across the globe and throughout time—as a fashion statement, spoil of war, marker of sexuality, valued keepsake, and ultimately art.There are 280 objects on display in the exhibition according to a review in The New York Times blog “Arts Beat,” and the mediums range from 20th century paintings to sculptures and relics from antiquity.

As the museum explains on its website about the exhibition:

Addressing the idea that individuals and social groups display personality through hairstyle, presented first in terms of frivolity: competing blonds, brunettes or redheads, straight or frizzy as seen in a wide range of classical paintings, sculptures and author photographs…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 time passing, illness and death.

The exhibition will be on display until July 14, 2013.

A 19th century bust of an African woman by Charles Cordier, who devoted his career as a sculptor to showcasing the diversity of human physiognomy.

Here is a figurine from a Turkish shadow puppet theatre show. The hair of the four men is being used as reins as they pull a figure in a carriage.

This is a portrait of the artist Marcel Duchamp, most likely taken by Man Ray, that shows off his star/comet tonsure haircut.

This necklace was made out of hair, metal, and fish bones and was worn by a tribe from the French Polynesian islands known as the Marquesas Islands.

A young Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon come close to kissing in this Sam Lévin photograph of the flaxen-haired sex symbol.

Flamin' Mamie's Bouffant Belles were a Texas all-girls track team that competed in full hair and makeup in the 1960s.

This is a Myhara headdress worn by the Rikbaktsa tribe of Brasil. It is made out of feathers, cotton and, of course, hair.

Here is an image from 1944 where a French woman with a baby fathered by a Nazi soldier is marched home by a mob after having her head shaved as a punishment.

A photograph of Suzanne Cloutier by Sam Lévin uses a blurring technique and back lighting to accentuate her blond hair and make her appear angelic.

These blond curls were cut from a young woman named Emma when she entered the Carmelite order, and bought by André Malraux at a Paris flea market who then gave it to a friend for his 20th birthday.

This is an Ivi po'o from the Marquesas Islands. The Tiki bottom was carved from bone, and then decorated with hair.

Another major exhibition just opened in France.

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