A true artist in every sense of the word, Alexander McQueen was a prolific designer whose untimely death in 2010 shocked the fashion world. Recognizing his creative genius, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has curated an exhibit that is a tribute to his talent. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is one of the largest and most elaborate costume exhibits that the Met has ever presented.
Having trained and worked on Savile Row in tailoring before going on to receive his masters in design from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Alexander McQueen had the reputation for creating an impeccably tailored look. He was so skilled in his craft that he could drape, make the pattern and sew any of his creations all by himself, and he often did.
The exhibit starts with his graduation collection from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, inspired by Jack the Ripper and placing encapsulated hair in the linings of the garments. The collection was bought in its entirety by Isabella Blow and after her death it was purchased by heiress Daphne Guiness. Beginning with this first collection and continuing throughout his career, McQueen’s presentations could shock, titillate, repulse or delight his audiences. But no matter what the reaction that they elicited, no one could deny his extreme talent.
One whole gallery, the “Cabinet of Curiosities”, is devoted to hats and accessories created for McQueen’s collections by designers like Phillip Treacy. Hats made of forest twigs formed into a bird or a flurry of butterflies, metal decorative headpieces, and sculptural shoes are all presented in cubby holes that line the walls. Above, television monitors play videos of McQueen’s most dramatic presentations, including one in which robotic arms spray paint a dress while it is being worn by model Shalom Harlow.
Exploring Alexander McQueen’s inspiration for his collections takes us on a journey through Sado-Masochism, Scottish Heritage, Asian motifs, Romanticism and Naturalism. Evident throughout is McQueen’s genius and technical skill, but we also get a glimpse into the tormented soul that brought all of the fantasies of his collections to life.
An incredible talent, McQueen’s work dazzles in the exhibit as it did in his presentations and he will most certainly be remembered as one of the most important designers of our time. This is a must-see exhibit for anyone who loves fashion and for anyone who loves art.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
May 4 - July 31, 2011