Published: April 26, 2011
The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will present a retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s iconic designs May 4⁊uly 31. “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” celebrates McQueen’s extraordinary contributions to fashion, from his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection in 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010.
On view at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, second floor, “Savage Beauty” will feature 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 will be on view.
McQueen’s fashions often referenced the exaggerated silhouettes of the 1860s, 1880s, 1890s and 1950s, but his technical ingenuity always imbued his designs with an innovative sensibility that kept him at the vanguard.
Galleries will showcase recurring themes and concepts in McQueen’s work. “The Romantic Mind” examines his technical ingenuity, which combined the precision of tailoring and patternmaking with the spontaneity of draping and dressmaking. “Romantic Gothic” highlights McQueen’s historicism, particularly his engagement with the Victorian Gothic and opposites such as life and death, darkness and light.
“Romantic Nationalism” looks at his patriotic impulses, including reflections on his Scottish heritage, narrative approach to fashion and fascination with British history. “Romantic Exoticism” explores influences from other cultures on the designer’s imagination, especially China and Japan. “Romantic Primitivism” captures McQueen’s engagement with the ideal of the “noble savage,” while “Romantic Naturalism” considers his enduring interest in the forms and raw materials of nature.
Six McQueen collections that explore his engagement with the Romantic sublime and the dialectics of beauty and horror will be featured as groupings in the galleries. Video highlights from ten of McQueen’s renowned runway presentations will also be on display.
The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, curator, with the support of Harold Koda, curator in charge, both of the Metropolitan’s Costume Institute. Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett, the production designers for Alexander McQueen’s fashion shows, serve as the exhibition’s creative director and production designer, respectively. All head treatments and masks are designed by Guido.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed worldwide by Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition; it is $45 for hardcover edition.
The Metropolitan is at 1000 Fifth Avenue. For information, www.metmuseum.org or 212-570-3951.
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