My daughter and I stood on a line that wound eight-deep through three large rooms at the Metropolitan Museum on Tuesday to confirm that regardless of the wait, seeing the tribute exhibit of Alexander McQueen’s work entitled “Savage Beauty” is a must.
Impeccably curated by Andrew Bolton, the show includes 100 of Alexander McQueen’s pieces and 70 accessories that were specifically commissioned for his different collections. Every one of McQueen’s collections has a theme that tells a story… most often one that juxtaposes life with death, light with darkness, the natural with the manufactured. The exhibit itself is a work of art in its own right… a perfect complement to McQueen’s work. And no wonder, since the set designers worked hand in hand with McQueen on his runway presentations. Even the music that filled the spaces was put together by the guy who did the tracks for the designer’s runway shows. Despite the fact that I felt the museum security guards had been over accommodating in the numbers they let into the exhibit at a time… you still felt like you were being treated to an experience… there was an amazing combination of visuals, multi media, large, impressive walls and coverings, mannequins covered with simple, ingenious masks and/or hair treatments to completely obscure the face.
And to think all this came from the inspiration and talent of the son of a taxi driver and social science teacher. At the age of 27 he wore his Doc Martens to fill the shoes of Hubert Givenchy as chief designer of the namesake Parisian couture house, boasting that ““When I’m dead and gone, people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.”
Sarah Burton, his right hand, and the one chosen by the powers that be to take over Alexander McQueen (the company) when McQueen took his life last year, remains in awe of his talent. She relates how he was able to cut a frock coat out of fabric by eye without a pattern and then pin it on the mannequin for a perfect fit. She also spoke of how he instinctively knew how fabric would react when paired with other fabrics or materials and how they would work on the body… (oh, I highly recommend springing for the audio “walk through” of the exhibit).
When being fitted for an event in one of McQueens’s tartan dresses, Sarah Jessica Parker remembers him never making eye contact.. “he didn’t really want to be my friend… he was more concerned about getting the fit right”.
Yes, the clothes are incredible, ingenious, … leaving you wondering … the exhibit — yes, that too is remarkable, engaging… But why is this bringing the crowds across the board (scanning the crowd that waited with us in line… every age, walk of life, background) to the Met? Why is this exhibit so wildly popular that it has not only been extended to August 7th, but the Met has offered the rare option of seeing the exhibit on a Monday for $50 when the rest of the museum is closed? Is it his rags to riches story of an artist who made his own rules by breaking with the convention of established fashion houses? Was it his untimely death? Yikes, could it be the Gaga factor?