McQueen Exhibit

by Emma Polini
​The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest exhibition proves that neither death nor two hour lines can interfere with art. The highly anticipated Alexander McQueen exhibit “Savage Beauty” is open until Aug. 7 and pays homage to McQueen’s 19-year career in fashion. 

If the line at the entrance provides any indication of his legacy, it is clear the McQueen name does not intend to fade.

For those unfamiliar with McQueen’s work, his style has been recognized for its innovative, provocative and revolutionary construction that continues to influence fashion. According to blog.metmuseum.org, the exhibit was organized by the Costume Institute and curator Andrew Bolton as a way to commemorate McQueen’s “extraordinary contributions to fashion” after his suicide last February.         

The site says that “Savage Beauty” consists of around 100 ensembles and 70 accessories, providing a glimpse at McQueen’s various takes on Romanticism.The exhibit says that McQueen believed in adding perverseness to clothing, having found that “there is a hidden agenda in the fragility of romance.”     

The first dress in “Savage Beauty” provides a prime example of McQueen’s style. The bold red sheath has a skirt made from hand-painted ostrich feathers and a bodice constructed from painted glass medical slides, demonstrating McQueen’s ability to view basic concepts from a unique perspective. 

Directly to the right lies a razor clam shell layered dress, providing for what Bolton describes on the Met’s website as a representation of many of McQueen’s revisited themes and concepts of “ life or death, lightness or darkness, predator/prey, man/machine.” 

“Savage Beauty” showcases the adherence to detail and precision McQueen used to provide his designs with their own energy. The first room achieves the animalistic vibe present in McQueen’s work through the use of feathers, buckles, spikes and leather. 

McQueen’s 1997 to 1998 collection “It’s a Jungle Out There” adds a deeper primitive element to his desire to “push the silhouette…and change the thinking of how we look,” as quoted on the Met’s blog. The site also says that “the lure of the exotic was central to his work.”

A darker element in McQueen’s work that most notably dates back to his 1995 collection “Highland Rape,” but was later revisited in his fall/winter 2006 collection “Widows of Culloden,” seemingly allows a glimpse into the designer’s tortured soul. The exhibit quotes McQueen, saying that “fashion is just the medium” he used to convey the artistic expression channeled through him, reminding the audience that not only is his work remembered for its concepts and construction, but for the sense that within every carefully placed stitch lies a piece of McQueen.