I want there to be things in my work that people can access, but also hidden secrets.
—Jim Shaw

The Wig Museum

variable dimensions
mixed media installatioin with lighting and signage: wigs, cloth and wood wig stands; and black-and-white video with audio and monitor
2017

One of the central installations in the exhibition 'The Wig Museum', is a museum within the museum, showing a collection of wigs. The origins of the work can be traced back to a dream  Jim Shaw had about a wig museum in the streets of the Mexican city of Tijuana which mainly functions as a tourist trap. The installation was first shown in 2017 at the then new Marciano Art Foundation in downtown Los Angeles, whose building previously served as the local Masonic hall. There, Shaw – with his fascination with religion, esotericism and secret societies – not only found inspiration for content, but also left behind material artefacts that became part of the work. For example, a number of found wigs which were an important part of the rituals in the temple, form the basis of the collection of 'The Wig Museum', supplemented with replicas of historical wigs and wigs that Shaw made up. Wearing wigs has been a sign of status and power in Western society for centuries. In Britain, wigs are even still worn during criminal proceedings. With 'The Wig Museum', Shaw reflects on a dominant Eurocentric patriarchal system that is falling apart.

“There are competitions among, especially, African American hair artists. I've long had an interest in such things. We have a friend who is a high level chocolate maker, a pastry chef, and he was the coach for the US Pastry Team for several years. They finally won the Coupe du monde. In our neighbourhood, there's this thing every year called the Rose Parade, where people make these floats that are decorated with flowers and seeds. They all develop these aesthetics that are very particular and very much devoted to defying gravity. The hair competitions, the dessert competitions, the flower parades, they want to make something that looks impossible to exist.”