Whether goatees, full beards or moustaches, humans have been depicting beards of all shapes and sizes throughout 5000 years of visual culture. Beards have been worn to convey qualities such as wisdom, power, and social, religious or political allegiance in a wide range of cultural contexts: from Ancient Egypt, the Ancient Near East, Old Europe, the classical civilizations of the Mediterranean – right through to present-day Europe. When beards have fallen out of favour, it is often because of the perception that they somehow run counter to such values as progress and modernity. So how is it that beards are once again fashionable, to the extent that young men today are more likely to be bearded than clean-shaven?
From 11 December 2015 to 3 July 2016, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin's special exhibition “Beards – Between Nature and Razor" will examine the way beards have changed radically both in terms of style and social significance in a range of cultural and historical contexts. The beard's current popularity among Berliners is testament to a cultural phenomenon that can be traced from antiquity through to the present day. Of course, it is important to note that beards are not an exclusively male preserve: in the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut the exhibition shows that women have also worn beards. And the affectionately titled 'bearded lady' Conchita Wurst breaks rigid gender conventions surrounding facial hair. The sheer variety of beards is evident in an interactive display of objects selected from the Staatliche Museen's ethnographic, archaeological and fine-art collections. The exhibition also hopes to gain a better understanding of the factors underlying contemporary Berliners' attachment to their beards and to give visitors an opportunity to share their views. Indeed, visitors are not only encouraged to see beards within the wider picture of their cultural and historical context, but also to take a picture of their own beards and include them in the exhibition.
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