Transparent red microscope slides hang like scales down the long bodice of a mock neck, single short-sleeved gown. Red ostrich feathers fade to black at the bottom of the gown’s wide skirt.
One of the opening looks of the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this dress from the VOSS Spring/Summer 2001 collection examines the unconventional forms of beauty that played such a pivotal role in the late designer’s work.
Lee Alexander McQueen, a British designer, produced many avant-guard and conceptual clothing collections over his relatively short career, before tragically taking his own life in 2010. He trained as a tailor on Savile Row and studied at Central Saint Martins in London. His fashion shows were theatrical, and sometimes controversial, especially his “Highland Rape” collection. He is known for his romantic and often fetishist designs that were inspired by many sources including nature, Victorian dress, and travel.
This exhibition takes the most intricate and interesting pieces of McQueen’s career from his graduate collection at Central Saint Martins to his posthumous Angels and Demons collection, and groups them by inspiration such as Romantic Gothic, and Romantic Nationalism. Pieces from his time as creative director of Givenchy are also on display. Accessories including, jewelry, headpieces, and shoes, by a number of collaborators are also shown. The designs of the gallery’s rooms highlight each period of inspiration. One is made to look like dingy London warehouse, while another has a haunted house feel. The rooms also house videos of the designer’s most interesting shows. Quotes from McQueen let the viewers into his mind and give insight into his inspirations for the collections.
The College Group at the Met hosted the McQueen for a Night event in conjunction with the exhibition on Friday May 20, 2011. Local college students were given the opportunity to learn special facts about the exhibit, listen to a panel discussion, watch movies that inspired McQueen, dance, and create arts-and-crafts projects, as well as view the exhibit together.
This exhibition is a fitting tribute to McQueen, whose legacy will live on though his recognizable aesthetic.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art until August 7, 2011. Learn more about the exhibition by visiting MetMuseum.org
*UPDATE: This exhibit has been extended by one week. According to Women’s Wear Daily the $50 “Met Mondays with McQueen” program begins Monday June 6 and offers visitors special Monday access to the exhibition between 9:30 am and 2:30 pm.