Alexander McQueen at the MET: Savage Beauty


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Exactly last Saturday I ventured uptown with my mother Margarita, my cousin Juliana, and my two best friends Beryl and Annakate in a pilgrimage of sorts to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit, “Savage Beauty,” which opened at the MET on May 4th and runs until August 7th, 2011.

The fashion exhibit was curated by the Costume Institute and may I say to them: BRAVO. “Savage Beauty” was one of THE best fashion exhibits I have ever seen. The curation was simply transformative – the entire mise-en-scène, if you will, was spectacular and kept with the dark, moody, and erotic tone of the exhibit. This was aided by the concrete slab walls behind all of the dresses and the dramatic lighting that gripped us the minute we stepped foot in the first room of the collection.

And let me just say – it took us a while to get there. Well, it took ME a long time to get there: I shall warn you all that the line to see this exhibit at 4pm was roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes long. Others behind me say it grew to be a 2 hour wait. Beryl had never been to the MET before and therefore needed to pay homage to the world famous Egyptian exhibit and the others wanted to tag along, so since I had been to the MET and particularly, the Egyptian Exhibit, I decided to go wait for everyone and hold a place in line. I figured I would write a blog-post in the mean time. Clearly I didn’t, because I am only posting this now, but that is only because the Internet/ cellular service (darned 3G speeds) was moving at a glacial pace and was having none of me trying to post, tweet, foursquare, and so I reverted to talking to the people in line with me. That didn’t last long, the nice Brazilian couple behind me dropped out of line only 20 minutes before reaching mecca and everybody else just seemed to be really concentrated on the task at hand, which I guess was preparing for this very serious fashion collection.

Well, it wasn’t so much serious, as it was ominous; after all, I think everyone there was trying to catch a glimpse into the psyche of the man who committed suicide not to long ago on February 11th, 2010. He was born on March 17th, 1969 as Lee Alexander McQueen. And without knowing him, obviously, but having followed his work over the years, it was clear that he was very talented, and as many other artists are, conflicted as well. But a true artist he was. It was fitting for his beautiful garments to be displayed in the MET, even if temporarily, because they are works of art. So be ready to wait, but I promise, it is well worth it as McQueen really was a visionary and this exhibit is telling of his enormous talent.
The exhibit consisted of over 50 looks – the most I have ever seen in a fashion exhibit – complete with shoes and face masks tracing the evolution of the Romantic, throughout McQueen’s relatively short, but indisputably fruitful career. In addition to the fashions, there were looped installation videos of some of McQueen’s more performance art fashion shows; one, for example, shows a model and dress being sprayed green, grey, and black by a robotic machine – emulating her getting shot, as if on the battle field – thus finishing the look directly on the runway, engaging the viewing public, very much performance art.

In addition to other video pieces, there were thoughtful quotes taken from the designer, showcased on the walls, describing his views on fashion, beauty, and the industry. They were particularly insightful and were a great asset to the overall show. A designer who was particularly inspired by the Romantic period, McQueen’s work was traced methodically in stages as one continued on through the journey of the exhibit. It truly felt like you were walking with him through his creative evolution as an artist and a designer in terms of his work, as well as his state of mind.

So – I documented the event as best I could. Photographs of any kind were forbidden, but I was feeling rebellious and wanted to be able to write a post for you all and a post without photographs is a no-no for me. I wish I could have taken more, but I was super stealth and I was able to take these.

So without further ado:

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This one was ridiculously intricate. I mean, all of his pieces are, but still. I bought the book and in describing this particular collection, McQueen had said he wanted to use flowers because they are beautiful, but then rot, representing how fleeting life is.

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In this one, the book explained, McQueen poked a hole, with huge antlers, through intricately embroidered lace fabric that cost £2,000!!!

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And here you see where he and Lady Gaga influenced each other. This was the outfit she wore in her “Bad Romance” video. I loved this one.

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One thing that the book didn’t share was the meaning behind the masks that each of the mannequins wore in the show. I assumed at first that this was touching on the eroticism of his work, but my friend Beryl and I wondered whether this was a choice on behalf of the Costume Institute, or a decision made on behest of the McQueen camp. If anyone knows, please don’t hesitate to let me know; I’d appreciate it.

The show comes at an important point in time, following the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine, where the bride and her sister Pippa Middleton both wore creations designed by Sarah Burton, the new head of the McQueen design house since the late McQueen’s passing. It showcases Burton’s talent, yes, but also highlights the prominence and stature of the now prolific couture house created and developed by McQueen’s hard work throughout his career. Both the royal wedding dress and this exhibit cement the legacy of the very talented designer.

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I recommend you all go. Then come back and share your reactions with me; Tell me which dress you liked best.

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