Like everyone else in the fashion world, I was DYING to be one of the first to get to the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit at the MET which opened to the public on Wednesday this week, after the Costume Institute Gala on Monday. I got there yesterday morning for a guided tour (which was no where to be found) so instead I took the headset tour (FREE if you pay your museum entrance with your AMEX card). Like last week’s Sarah Burton for McQueen royal wedding gown, the exhibit was quite spectacular, and yes I’d go so far as to say it is probably my favorite exhibit, ever.
The show was organized by theme – which I tend to prefer – and I feel that it fit McQueen’s signature elements quite well. Themes included: THE ROMANTIC MIND, ROMANTIC GOTHIC, CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, ROMANTIC NATIONALISM, ROMANTIC EXOTICISM, ROMANTIC PRIMITIVISM and ROMANTIC NATURALISM. The presentation is quite elaborate, from smoked mirrors and a library to wood structures so rich that the smell of cedar enhanced the experience. Sound was not an afterthought; reflecting McQueen’s particular taste in music when it came to his runway shows. The Kate Moss hologram was just incredible to see in person, so much so that I could have watched it over and over again if it wasn’t for the massive crowd throughout the exhibit (at 10am on a weekday, mind you). Digital video effects were also present, replicating former show theatrics as well as an impressive waterfall effect behind Plato’s Atlantis collection. Indeed there were a lot of theatrics however I do not feel as though the settings overshadowed the clothes – they simply elevated the experience, and what an experience it was.
I spent an hour and a half in the exhibit and encourage absolutely everyone to attend. The headset narration was both informative and set a very personal tone, with commentary from the MET’s Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton to McQueen’s professors at Central Saint Martin’s to milliner Philip Treacy and Sarah Jessica Parker, who described an awkward cab ride with McQueen on the way to the MET’s AngloMania exhibit in 2006. I came away from the exhibit with a heavy bag in hand – filled with a digital print notebook, collection of post cards, miniature armadillo shoe and official book from the exhibit. As I nabbed one last photo (illegal and unfortunately blurry), I overheard a woman say, “They’re going to throw you out!” to which I was reminded of a McQueen quote from the beginning of the show, “You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but keep the tradition.”
NOTE: Book photos below are by photographer Solve Sundsbow, who shot McQueen model-favorite Polina Kasina in many of the McQueen archive garments, although it often appears as though the garments are on a mannequin. The book is arranged thematically in order of the exhibition.