Pubic hair as workwear

Centraal Museum explores the role of human hair in fashion and art.


A few months ago, Centraal Museum Utrecht got bushy with Glamcult Studio and photographer Ruud van der Peijl to visualize its exhibition, titled—you’ve guessed it—HAIR! In an exploration of the significance of human hair and how it winds its way through fashion history like a connecting strand, three tonnes of human hair feature in the form of 200 pieces by selected artists. Expect furry stilettos, long locks as frocks and, um, pubic hair as workwear.

A piece of 19th-century jewellery made of the hair of a loved one was the catalyst for the exhibition HAIR!, and also prompted Utrecht’s Centraal Museum to explore the use of hair in fashion more generally—revealing, of course, that hair in fact forms an enduring theme throughout history. After all, hair is an essential part of society, an essential component in the art of styling ourselves: intentionally or not, your coiffure and body hair communicate your position and identity to the world.

Throughout the centuries, people have treated their head hair as one of the most precious expressions of themselves. No wonder, then, that a lock of hair became a cherished memento in the 19th century. It’s fascinating to notice the complex relationship that we have with our hair: we both adore it and revile it—we style it to perfection, or shave it all off. This contradiction between appreciation and revulsion forms the focal inspiration of the exhibition.


Hair is both an intriguing and controversial subject for us—not least because it is literally so close to humankind. The museum’s ambition is to demonstrate hair as a versatile material that can also be used to create new and intriguing objects. Have you ever thought about embroidering your diary with your own locks? Sticking some pubic hair to your new stilettos? Maybe thought of wearing your own long locks as a necktie or scarf? No? Well, HAIR! may leave you wanting to do just that—or it will at least ensure you leave with a very different and much more nuanced view of human hair.

The exhibition takes over “The Stables”, Centraal Museum’s 1000m2 exhibition hall. The exhibition concept came from the curator of fashion, Ninke Bloemberg, and the design by Harm Rensink and Niek Pulles. Over (wait for it) three tonnes of human hair, in the form of approximately 200 art works by some 45 artists from the Netherlands and abroad are featured in the exhibition.

The artists include Julien d’Ys, Charlie Lemindu, Shoplifter, Zhu Tian (with her standout Babe hairy pumps), Studio Swine, Adelle Lutz, Levi van Veluw, Helen Pynor, Jenine Sheroes, Masako Takahashi and many more. There’s also an ode to hair stylist Christiaan Houtenbos, whose notable achievements include Grace Jones’ “blockhead” do, with the first ever glimpse into Houtenbos’s extensive personal archive.


HAIR! is on view at Centraal Museum [Utrecht, NL] until 29 May.


Images from top to bottom:

Campaign image by Ruud van der Peijl, featuring Zhu Tian, Babe, 2013

Julien d’Ys for Comme Des Garçons S/S16, photography: Ilker Akyol

Levi van Veluw, Natural Transfer, 2009, courtesy of Galerie Ron Mandos

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