London, UK

Raphael Albert works on loan to the Wellcome Collection

26 Oct 2023 – 28 Apr 2024

Past Collection Loan


Autograph has loaned three works from our collection by artist Raphael Albert to the Wellcome Collection's exhibition The Cult of Beauty.

The notion and pursuit of beauty is intertwined with the entirety of human history socially, culturally, philosophically, scientifically and medically. In every culture and era, an ideal of beauty presents itself as the universal value worthy of going to great lengths to attain and sustain. The Cult of Beauty asks, what shapes those driving forces that have led us to believe in a myth of universal beauty despite its clearly evolving nature.

The exhibition will explore across time and cultures, how we came to develop the perceptions and beliefs we have of beauty through notions such as morality, status and health, ageism, ableism, colourism/racism/whiteness and gender. Tracing a history of innovations in the beauty industry and their interactions with science, from Burroughs Wellcome’s Hazeline Beauty cream to cosmetic fillers; the corset to the perfect selfie, it will also investigate how commercialisation and design in the 20th century turned pharmaceuticals into a full-blown beauty industry. Through new artist commissions and contemporary loans, the exhibition will both question and celebrate what beauty means to different communities, particularly marginalised ones, in our world today.


Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Rd., London


Find out ticketing information and visiting hours on the Wellcome Collection's website

past exhibition

This exhibition is now closed. View our current exhibitions here

works on loan

Miss Black & Beautiful Sybil McLean with fellow contestants, Hammersmith Palais, London, 1972

Beauty Salon, London, c. 1960

Miss Africa Maggie May, Blythe Road, London, c. 1976

about the artist

Raphael Albert

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) was born on the Caribbean island of Grenada. After moving to London in 1953, he studied photography at Ealing Technical College whilst working part-time at Lyons cake factory. Albert soon became a freelance photographer working for black British newspapers such as West Indian World – for whom one of his first assignments was documenting Miss Jamaica – as well as The Gleaner, Caribbean Times and New World.

In 1970 he established the popular Miss Black and Beautiful contest, followed by Miss West Indies in Great Britain, Miss Teenager of the West Indies in Great Britain and Miss Grenada. In addition to his production company Albert Promotions, he also founded his own magazine Charisma in 1984, and the associated Albert’s Girl Academy of Modelling. Albert remained committed to documenting the West Indian communities in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham throughout his life, taking home-studio portrait photographs for local families, and avidly documenting weddings, christenings, and other social events.

In 2007 Albert co-organised a Black History Month display of his and other photographers’ work entitled Miss West Indies in Great Britain: Celebrating 30 Years of Beauty Pageants (1963-1993) at the Hammersmith and Fulham Information Centre. His work is now represented in the national collections of the V&A and Tate Britain.

Read More

Banner image: Raphael Albert, Miss Black & Beautiful Sybil McLean with fellow contestants, Hammersmith Palais, London, 1972 [detail]. Courtesy of Autograph, London.

Works on loan:  All images courtesy Autograph, London. 1) Raphael Albert, Miss Black & Beautiful Sybil McLean with fellow contestants, Hammersmith Palais, London, 1972. 2) Raphael Albert, Beauty Salon, London, c. 1960s. 3) Raphael Albert, Miss Africa Maggie May, Blythe Road, London, c. 1976.