A Beautiful Game

A Beautiful Game both showcases lovely artifacts from the World Chess Hall of Fame collection—chess-inspired beauty products, photographs, posters, and advertisements—and illustrates how the sophistication and brilliance of the game have been celebrated and revered in chess and popular culture. The exhibition also highlights new, interactive artwork by chess champion and author Jennifer Shahade as well as Pinned! fashion designer Audra Noyes.

Chess is often described as a beautiful game, and its association with intelligence and strategy has made it an appealing subject for advertisements for a wide range of products, from automobiles to lipstick. A Beautiful Game highlights many of the chess-inspired beauty and fashion artifacts in the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) as well as illustrating how beauty is celebrated in the game of chess. Delicate Mary Chess perfume bottles from the WCHOF collection provided inspiration for staging A Beautiful Game. The Mary Chess company was named for its founder, Mary Grace Chess Robinson, who was born in Kentucky and had first created a name for herself through creating artificial flowers. In the 1930s, she began to create floral-scented perfumes and lotions in her kitchen. In 1939, when Mary Chess was choosing the bottles for her line, she gained inspiration from an image of an antique amber chess set once owned by members of the Hohenzollern dynasty. A pattern from a 17th-century Venetian chessboard adorned the wrapping paper for her packaging. Her logo, a queen piece, appeared on a variety of products from perfume to dusting powder, though in a 1942 interview she stated that neither she nor the other executives at the company played chess.

The Mary Chess items are only a small part of a much larger collection of artifacts related to chess, fashion, and beauty that we have amassed since the WCHOF moved from Miami to Saint Louis in 2011.  Among them are products by Lipstick Queen, whose founder Poppy King visited the Chess Forum, a shop and game parlor in New York, to learn about the game while developing her chess-themed collection. Following Bobby Fischer’s victory in the 1972 World Chess Championship. Avon created a line of aftershaves and colognes in chess piece-shaped bottles that collectors could assemble into a full chess set. There are also numerous advertisements incorporating chess themes from companies as diverse as Chanel, Revlon, and Maidenform, and the reigning World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen has appeared in advertisements for the Dutch clothing company G-Star RAW. These advertisements illustrate how companies use the game of chess to evoke a variety of themes including intelligence, elegance, refinement, glamour, tradition, strategy, and power.

More information coming soon!

Funding for this exhibition provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.


10/31/2019: Explore St. Louis — A Beautiful Game

10/17/2019: St. Louis Public Radio — On Chess: Not Particularly Beautiful

10/14/2019: St. Louis Post Dispatch — World Chess Hall of Fame Exhibits Celebrate Best of Chess, Fashion and Beauty

10/10/2019: Ladue News — Fall 2019 Exhibitions Opening Reception

9/24/2019: Press Release — World Chess Hall of Fame Exhibits Celebrate Best of Chess, Fashion and Beauty

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