Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Wednesday, 04 May 2011
New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrating the work of McQueen with the exhibition: "Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty." On Monday the opening gala was hosted by Anna Wintour, the US Vogue editor and Met fund-raiser, actress Salma Hayek and her husband, François-Henri Pinault, the owner of the McQueen brand. Colin Firth, the star of “The King’s Speech,” and Stella McCartney, a close friend, were co-hosts.

The exhibition celebrates McQueen’s dark imagination: gothic Victoriana, dresses tufted with blood-red feathers, decorated with dying flowers or rattling with clamshells, horns appear as protuberances from the shoulders, or platform shoes like organic growths.

However disturbing the exhibits, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” was promised an exceptional opening gala. The designer’s passion for nature in the raw and for his Scottish roots were expressed by the florist Raúl Àvila, who lined the museum’s massive stairway with heather and decorated the Temple of Dendur with boxwood hedges and topiary birds. Dining tables were fashioned from wood trestles balanced on tree stumps and the British group Florence and the Machine was enlisted as the entertainment.

“Lee would be so proud — and I bet he is up there looking down,” said Ms. McCartney, while Daphne Guinness, who bought the McQueen collection of his muse, the late Isabella Blow, planned a live tribute by dressing for the gala in the store windows of Barneys New York.

The show, curated by Andrew Bolton, opens in the McQueen heartland: tailoring. The technique was evident from the first curving jackets at the designer’s 1992 graduation show from St. Martin’s College of Art and Design, inspired by Jack the Ripper. It was typical of Mr. McQueen that the barely decent “bumpster” pants (which began a worldwide craze for hip-slung trousers) were a product of skills he learned working on London’s Savile Row.

The centerpiece is a cabinet of curiosities, where boxed shelves focus on wild and often vicious accessories, like the jewelry of Shaun Leane. Above the displays, videos from dramatic, disturbing McQueen shows run continuously. The concept of using as a model a woman with prosthetic legs or of having a robot squirt paint viciously over a dress still seems discomforting.

But whatever the reaction to these videos, no one could argue about Mr. McQueen’s sensational showmanship and his exceptional techniques.

  The hologram of Kate Moss is as extraordinary in its mini-version as it was in the 2006 Paris show. And the workmanship displayed in sections that Mr. Bolton calls “Exoticism” (with Japanese references) and “Primitism” (such as the Masai necklets) prove just how much Mr. McQueen learned while working in Paris couture for Givenchy.

The exhibition "Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty" runs through July 31.

Images: SS01, SS06, SS10
Source: International Herald Tribune©