Enamoured: 80 Years of Revlon exhibition in London


Three-day beauty exhibition in London about one of the companies that changed the face of beauty (at least of nail beauty) is a mixed bag. Revlon celebrates their 80th anniversary this year and the UK team decided to mark the momentous occasion with a historical exhibit/art installation event. Their efforts are commendable as it’s rarely the case that beauty companies with a lot of history behind them stage such events often and/or outside the country of origin.

The exhibit is split into two rooms – Revson (1932-1975) and Revlon (1975-2012). The focus is on nail polish, nails and a bewitching red that made Charles Revson’s fortunes.

There is no mention of Charlie, their most iconic fragrance, and a passing reference to their other products.

The historical aspect had a light touch, but the quirky art that curator Ryan Lanji commissioned was distractingly pretty and eye-grabbing.

A large portrait of Revlon’s founder Charles Revson surrounded by images of glamorous women with elegant red nails by artist Lorna May Wadsworth watched the room from the side.

An installation inspired by Alexander McQueen’s spray paint dresses.

A note on the wall suggested Revson was reponsible for women starting to match their lipstick to their nail polish after witnessing “with distaste” a lady with different hues of rouge and enamel lift her cigarette to her mouth.

Revolving installation of four heads in a middle of a round table flanked by five hands addressed this particular legend.

The Fire & Ice Campaign made a special appearance in its two incarnations, the original from 1952 starring model Dorian Leigh and shot by Richard Avedon.

and the 2010 Mario Testino version starring Jessica Biel. Or did a de Lempicka make its way to this exhibition?

A very sci-fi interpretation of nails by Jenny Longworth. Or did Thierry Mugler break in and brought his own exhibit? “Cherry” is a female bust covered entirely by nails.

Overall it was a very visual experience that didn’t get weighed down by loads of historical details.

Whoever would like to learn more about marketing genius and businessman extraordinaire Charles Revson, you can read “Fire and Ice: The Story of Charles Revson the Man Who Built the Revlon Empire.”  I haven’t read this one yet, but from the little I gleaned from other books about beauty industry giants, such as Helena Rubinstein (who perfected the cold cream and invented the “need” for various creams throughout the day), Eugene Schueller (founder of L’Oreal who invented a revolutionary hair dye), Francois Coty (perfumer and businessman), they all had big dreams that they made it happen through dogged perseverance and a talent for knowing what the market needed before everyone else.

Enamoured: 80 Years of Revlon is at London Film Museum, Covent Garden, 45 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7BN until 2 December. Entry is FREEE