This weekend I trekked from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side in spite of shuttle buses and re-routed train schedules to feast with my eyes on Alexander McQueen’s work in all it’s visual glory at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit organized by The Costume Institute launched earlier this month to record number of visitors will continue on until July 31, 2011.
The exhibition features 100 ensembles and 70 accessories created over the course of McQueen’s 19-year lifespan from Central St Martin’s to Givenchy to his final collection. It’s actually quite an extensive exhibit and room after room I found myself filled with awe and at times even disturbed. McQueen has always been my design hero in so many ways and to see his life’s work compiled together with words from the designer’s own lips was a glimpse into the designer’s psyche, vision and world. It’s a world full of contrasts, full of darkness and light, a romantic world that almost breaks my heart and yet fills it with delight in the same instant. I am filled with sorrow that the world cannot exist in real life and sad that the storyteller is no longer with us.
After a quick stop at the ladies room, I joined the queue for the exhibit and after 35 minutes of being briskly herded through a line, I found myself inside the exhibit. While crowds whirred around me, I took my time. Inch by inch my eyes drank in all there was to see and I marveled at the craftsmanship of every piece. I was also delighted to hear fellow enthusiasts around me talking about how certain pieces were made. One piece in particular from the final collection stood out because the print was seamless, and yet somehow so effortlessly a printed linen became an airy chiffon.
Not only is McQueen’s own work on display but the exhibition features several installations that showcase how garments might have originally been displayed. There is a 2-way mirror that goes from a dark box, to displaying the clothes, to showing the box shattering to reveal a different kind of untraditional beauty. There is the famous hologram of Kate Moss from 2006. There is the Shipwreck dress filmed under water that captivated me as the fabric swirled on a screen over my head.
The clothing is frighteningly soft as a whisper at times and at others a modern kind of armor that protects you from the harshness of everyday life.
“When you see a woman wearing McQueen, there’s a certain hardness to the clothes that makes her look powerful. It kind of fends people off…It’s almost like putting armor on a woman. It’s a very psychological way of dressing.”
The exhibition also offers a closer look at some of the amazing accessories created in collaboration with Phillip Treacy, Shaun Leane and others. I loved seeing the amazing skeleton corset and whimsical butterflies turned into a hat.
It was amazing to see the collection in person and honestly photos do not do the level of detail or the colors justice. All the hallmarks that make McQueen, McQueen including perfect tailoring, deconstruction, unexpected materials, beauty in the unbeautiful and unwavering romanticism did not disappoint. When I was finished the exhibit, I was sad to leave it behind and I consoled myself by already planning for subsequent visits.
Since photos were strictly forbidden all of the above photos are courtesy of The Photograph Studio, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The photo’s in the album are a few I thought I’d share from the exhibition catalogue that I just had to get. The cover features a holographic image that changes when moved between McQueen’s face to a skull. While it’s not the same seeing it in person, it gave me joy to take a little piece of McQueen home with me. Hope that you have a chance to see it for yourself...even my non-fashion inclined boyfriend recognized that he was in the presence of the work of a genius.