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HAIR! explores the topic of human hair, focusing on its role within the spheres of fashion and art.

The exhibition, at Centraal Museum in The Netherlands, is the first of its kind to devote this much attention to human hair. Edwin Jacobs, director of the Museum, describes how remarkable this is “seeing how intimately familiar the object of the exhibition is to all of us”. HAIR! brings together the work of over forty-five renowned international artists, including Julien d’Ys, Charlie Le Mindu, Shoplifter, Christiaan Houtenbos, Zhu Tian,  Adelle Lutz and many more. We spoke to Ninke Bloemberg, the exhibition’s curator, about the inspirations behind this phenomenal show.

Centraal Museum- Babe, Zhu Tian

Babe, Zhu Tian

Centraal Museum- Ruud Van Der Peijl

campaign HAIR! Ruud van der Peijl

Can you tell us about the central themes which are explored by the artists in this exhibition?
The exhibition is divided into spheres; four large rooms and two smaller, more intimate spaces. These are each built around three central ideas: ‘Hair as a line’, ‘hair and identity’ and ‘hair and fashion’. Within this, I discovered that there are broader subjects being explored, such as ‘hair as bio-waste’ and ‘hair embroidery’. The re-use of human hair is the focus of several of the artists, such as Studio Swine, Veerle Tytgat, Zoran Todorovic and Alix Bizet. While they all have a different approach, the ideas explored are similar; that hair is available on a wide scale but is generally viewed as garbage and thrown away. These artists look for opportunities where human hair can be re-used for different purposes, such as furniture or clothing.

What reaction do you hope visitors will have on viewing the exhibition?
Hopefully the same reaction I had when I started researching! To be surprised, amazed and even agitated by the artworks and ideas explored by the artists. One of my favourites is a 12 metre long silk journal, embroidered with the hair of the artist, Masako Takahashi. She created her own language, so one cannot read what she has written, although it resembles Japanese script. The length of each word depends on the length of an individual hair, which can be quite long, since her hair reaches down to her knees!

Centraal Museum- Kitchen Window by Melanie Bilenker

Kitchen Window, Melanie Bilenker

Centraal Museum- Opening by Hanneke wetzer
Image credit: Hanneke Wetzer
“I hope visitors will be surprised, amazed and even agitated by the artworks and ideas explored by the artists”
Ninke Bloemberg
Centraal Museum- Studio Swine

Hair Highway, Studio Swine

Centraal Museum Anouk Van Klaveren

Project 000 004 – Hypertrichosis bow tie 2.0, Anouk van Klaveren

Centraal Museum- HAIR! openen by Hanneke Wetzer
Image credit: Hanneke Wetzer

The exhibition brings together forty-five artists from all over the world. Did you have specific works in mind when you started the project?
It’s been quite an adventure, discovering and meeting so many new artists! I started with the nineteenth century hair jewellery from our permanent collection, but soon created a wish list of artists – and fortunately many of these ended up contributing work to the exhibition.

You have previously dedicated your time to fashion and costume curating, how different was this experience from curating previous projects?
As a fashion curator you know your way around the fashion world; who to approach, the most interesting designs for a specific project and so on… With this project, however, I soon discovered that I had to rely on advice from others far more than I was used to. Luckily for me, the artists, researchers and my museum colleagues were eager to share their knowledge. During the installation of the artworks, many of the artists came to help, which gave them a chance to get to know each other, share techniques and discuss new possibilities. It was a delight to see that rather than a sense of competition, there was only respect between the artists. They finally met others who work with this strange material!

Centraal Museum Hanneke Wetzer
Image credit: Hanneke Wetzer
“I only wanted to show works made of human hair, excluding horse hair or synthetic”
Ninke Bloemberg
Centraal Museum-HAIR! opening by Hanneke Wetzer
Image credit: Hanneke Wetzer

Hair is a tricky medium to display. You worked with Harm Rensink and Niek Pulles, who designed the exhibition. Can you tell us about the choices which were made in terms of display?
Due to the delicate nature of human hair, I was afraid that smaller works would disappear within our enormous gallery rooms, or that it might become a bit dull, with mainly brown, black and grey artworks. I was looking for designers who would understand the material and bring it to a higher level; and that’s Harm Rensink and Niek Pulles.

They suggested dividing the exhibition into spheres rather than themes, an idea that I embraced immediately. Also, having hair wallpaper (created by the artist Shoplifter) on the walls and floor helped create an intimate yet modern display. One room has ‘hair as a line’ as its theme. For this, Harm and Niek proposed having a completely white room, and creating a feeling of infinity by installing walls with 30 degree angles.

I did have to convince them that I only wanted to show works made of human hair, excluding horse hair or synthetic. I was, and still am, confident that this was the strongest choice. They are amazing sparring partners! I’m thrilled by the final result, and feel that we’ve found a synergy between content and exhibition design.

Centraal Museum Opening Hanneke Wetzer
Image credit: Hanneke Wetzer

Lastly, has working on this exhibition changed your perception of your own hair in any way?
Yes certainly, when I started the project I had some prejudices regarding hair… I think the artist Sara Bomans put this into words perfectly; she said she abhors the hair she finds in her shower drain, but once she brings this same hair to her studio, it transforms into neutral material to work with. We incorporated this idea into the exhibition, by running a workshop where people can make drawings, using their own hair.

Centraal Museum Hanneke Wetzer
Image credit: Hanneke Wetzer

HAIR! is on until the 29th May 2016 at Centraal Museum

Emma de Clercq
Images courtesy of the artists and Centraal Museum
Installation Images Hanneke Wetzer
Special Thanks Ninke Bloemberg

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