Pick of the Week: Savage Beauty Comes Home

By Regina Connell.

Savage Beauty, a retrospective celebrating the life and work of Alexander McQueen was one of NY’s Metropolitan Museum’s most successful (and lucrative) shows. But as spectacular as it was, it’s nothing compared to what’s going on in London, as McQueen’s work returns home.

Birds Nest Headdress Autumn Winter 2005/6

Birds Nest Headdress Autumn Winter 2005/6

Savage Beauty” opened on March 14, 2015 at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (a perfect setting for his work).  Running through August 2, 2015, the Telegraph reported 70,000 pre-opening tickets had been sold.

What is it about McQueen that can get 70,000 people into a museum? The clothing of course, outre and shocking, almost gothic in detail and theme, and spectacularly crafted (courtesy of his start as a Savile Row tailor’s apprentice). And the story of his life and death (nothing like death to pull in the crowds, it must be said.) The way the line has lived on since then under the direction of long-time McQueen protege, Sarah Burton (not some poached-from-another-fashion-house-designer, as seems to be so de rigueur these days).

The Titanic Shoe

The Titanic Shoe

What seems to be so promising about the V&A’s treatment of the exhibit is that while it nominally uses many of the pieces from the New York exhibit, the V&A has better contextualized it, made it more nuanced and complex—only befitting the man and his creations. It’s bigger, there’s a larger Cabinet of Curiosities (of inspiration and tours de force) and there’s a new catalogue that promises to go deeper into McQueen’s influences. (Read Suzy Menkes’ review of the show here and the Telegraph’s review here.)

Gauntlet, Autumn/Winter 2010

Gauntlet, Autumn/Winter 2010

The website is also visually compelling and juicy, exploring the key themes that kept cropping up in his work: Art and Religion, Nature, Memento Mori, London, and Tailoring.

Dante Jacket 1996: extreme tailoring

Dante Jacket 1996: extreme tailoring

As usual, the press criticisms tend to delve into the question of whether McQueen was an artist (influenced as he was by the art, and not to mention that his designs weren’t especially wearable or commercial), or an artisan or a designer. Maybe it’s time we forget all that labeling, and look instead at the extraordinary creativity of the man, the extraordinary stories he told in his work, and the inspiration his work and dedication to his vision and metier are to the creative in everyone.

 

All images courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Details
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
March 14–August 2, 2015
Victoria and Albert Museum
Buy tickets: www.lovetheatre.com/static/Alexander-McQueen-Savage-Beauty-VAM.html
Order the catalogue: www.vandashop.com/V-A-Alexander-McQueen-Hardback/dp/B00SG1Z9UQ

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