Lips Like Sugar: A New Book’s Obsession with Lipstick

Lipstick Flavor

Edited by curator Jérôme Sans and dealer Marla Hamburg Kennedy, the new book Lipstick Flavor [D.A.P., May 2016] presents a study of the past thirty years of contemporary art and photography through the lens of one single modern artifact, women’s lipstick. “Lipsticks—and by extension lips themselves—have written and are still writing so many stories,” Sans said of his interest in the subject. “It has retained such an obsessive nature throughout the history of art up until today. Where it lies, probably, is in its ability to reflect an infinite variation of desires, expressions, pleasures, self-affirmations, and identifications with a genre or personality.” Featuring the works of everyone from Marina Abramovic to Juergen Teller – all players in a “silent opera,” in Sans’ telling – the book is both a celebration and an exploration of social mores and the power of iconography. And it’s about one more thing, Sans said: “Sex and rock ‘n’ roll, no?”


“The red lipstick served the picture well, as it seemed overarching several decades, and loaded with cultural assumptions. This work has no narrative. As a matter of fact, one could say it depends on its lack of such.” — Elad Lassry

Elad Lassry’s “Woman (Green Bow),” 2012. Photo © Elad Lassry, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York.


“The character is a mother-figure. The red lips make her a MILF (Mother I’d Like to Fuck).” — Miles Aldridge

Miles Aldridge, 2003. Photo by Miles Aldridge/Trunk Archive.


“This photomontage was one of a series that I made for a short film for Factory Records in 1979. For each photomontage I cut out a different mouth and I was fascinated to see how the model’s face would change as I added each new lip colour and shape to the found image. In 1979 lip augmentation procedures didn’t exist and this photomontage now feels prophetic of the present culture where bigger is always best.” — Linder Linder’s “Untitled,” 1979. Photomontage courtesy of Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London.


“In the same misleading way in which we can consider the glitter the trait d’union between strip clubs and preschools.” — Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari

Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari’s “Toiletpaper,” 2012. Photo by Toiletpaper Magazine, courtesy Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari.


“The lipstick was bleeding all over the place, as end of night lipstick does, but her smile is that of an arrival—full of optimism about the event!” — Jessica Craig Martin

Jessica Craig Martin’s “Arrival Lipstick,” 2008. Photo courtesy the artist.


“It gave the photo some purpose, as originally it was to illustrate the cup and saucer.” — Martin Parr

Martin Parr’s “Martin Parr kisses some of his favourite mugs, Bristol, England, 2005,” 2005. Photo © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos.


“These lips—seemingly identical and of contrasting hues, evoke ambiguity, obsession, fetish. Fairy tales we project our fantasies into, these doubling lips create exponential narratives without resolution.” — Sam Samore

Sam Samore’s “The Lips (#2),” 2003. Photo courtesy of Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels, Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and Team Gallery, New York.


Sam Samore’s “The Lips (#1),” (2003). Photo courtesy Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels; Gisela Capitain, Cologne; and Team Gallery, New York.


Marina Abramovic is currently working on her memoir in the remote countryside and was not reachable for comment.

Marina Abramovic’s “Dozing Consciousness,” 1997. Performed for video, 30 minutes, Amsterdam. Photo © Marina Abramovic, courtesy Marina Abramovic Archives.


Juergen Teller declined to comment. We leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Juergen Teller’s “Kristen McMenamy 3,” 1996. London, England.