Queen of Beauty

Queen of Beauty

"Helena Rubinstein in a Red Brocade Balenciaga Gown,” 1957 by Graham Sutherland; Daniel Katz Gallery, London, © Estate of Graham Sutherland

When Helena Rubinstein wanted to rent a posh Park Ave. apartment and was told the management does not lease to Jews, she solved the problem by buying the building. Whenever she would have a fight with her husband, she would go out and comfort herself by purchasing an exquisite pearl necklace. And, way before it was in vogue, Helena Rubenstein was collecting African, Oceanic and Latin American art.

This is just a few of the fascinating details you will learn about the woman who was arguably the pioneer  in defining what beauty means for contemporary women. When it came to style, she loved the concept of contrasts (a large woman, she insisted, should wear miniscule pieces of jewelry, while a petite lady should bring attention to herself with large, vivid accessories). The exhibit “Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power,” is an eclectic collection of photographs and articles on the trailblazing entrepreneur, as well as personal items including dresses, jewelry, artwork (her art collection was staggering, including works by  Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, along with sculptures, masks and figures from Mali, Nigeria, New Guinea and other countries around the world). Finally, a room filled with miniature houses—Rubinstein was fascinated with doll-sized dioramas—comes from Rubinstein’s flagship beauty salon at 715 Fifth Avenue.

After seeing this exhibit, you can’t help but believe that beauty is so much more than skin deep.

» “Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power,” The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave., 212.423.3200, thru Mar. 22