Experiencing the Art of Alexander McQueen

I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting so that when I’m dead and gone, people will know that the 21st century was started by Alexander McQueen. – Alexander McQueen

It’s been over a year since the tragic suicide of iconic designer and couturier Alexander McQueen and the void his absence leaves in the fashion world remains unfilled. From his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection in 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010, Alexander McQueen challenged and expanded our understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity.

To commemorate this bittersweet anniversary, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art honors the life and legacy in a beautiful retrospective befitting of a this trail-blazing visionary, Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty.

The exhibition, in the Metropolitan Museum’s second-floor Cantor Galleries, features approximately 100 ensembles and 70 accessories from McQueen’s prolific 19-year career. Drawn primarily from the Alexander McQueen Archive in London, with some pieces from the Givenchy Archive in Paris as well as private collections, signature designs including the bumster trouser, the kimono jacket, and the three-point “origami” frock coat are on view.

“Alexander McQueen’s iconic designs constitute the work of an artist whose medium of expression was fashion,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “This landmark exhibition continues the Museum’s tradition of celebrating designers who changed the course of history and culture by creating new possibilities.”

While McQueen’s behavior was often appalling, his talent and popularity were indisputable. The hooligan of the catwalk was constantly pushing the boundaries in his tendency to juxtapose between the wildly romantic and the controversial. Armed with fabrics and thread, he sculpted breath-taking works of fashion-art as seen in his recurring themes of romance, goth, patriotism, death, masochism and violence.

Rare among designers, he saw beyond the physical constraints to its ideational and ideological possibility. – Metropolitan Museum of Art

The galleries showcase recurring themes and concepts beginning with “The Romantic Mind” which examines his subversion of traditional tailoring and dressmaking practices through displacement and deconstruction, and “Romantic Gothic” which highlights McQueen’s narrative approach to fashion and illuminate his engagement with Romantic literary traditions such as death, decay, and darkness. Further galleries feature the themes Romantic Naturalism, Romantic Primitivism, Romantic Nationalism, and Romantic Exoticism, as well as a Cabinet of Curiosities.

“Alexander McQueen was best known for his astonishing and extravagant runway presentations, which were given dramatic scenarios and narrative structures that suggested avant-garde installation and performance art,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator, The Costume Institute. “His fashions were an outlet for his emotions, an expression of the deepest, often darkest, aspects of his imagination. He was a true romantic in the Byronic sense of the word – he channeled the sublime.”

The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s Andrew Bolton, Curator, with the support of Harold Koda, Curator in Charge.

Because of the high demand, the Museum has introduced Met Mondays with McQueen—a program offering additional hours that the exhibition galleries will be open—beginning on June 6. Visitors may purchase tickets for special viewings on Mondays when the Museum is closed to the public. More information on the exhibit or to purchase tickets in advance is available on the Museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty, runs through August 7th.