Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The World of Alexander McQueen

The Metropolitan Museum of Art showcasing Alexander McQueen's designs

The Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is absolutely amazing.

Entitled "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty", it encapsulates most of the late designer's creations in a multimedia space probably in the context he would have approved of.

The homage to McQueen is wonderful, but also sad to see such boundless creativity cut short at age 40 when he committed suicide just a week after his mother died. It seems she was the driving force of his career.
Duck feathers painted gold

There was a massive line up for the show and people were waiting patiently to get in. I was really lucky a friend of mine is a member of the Met and we were able to bypass the line up that snaked through several galleries and walk straight in.

Lots of people were already in there so it took longer to see each of the exhibits.

Throughout the exhibition are quotes McQueen has said and the first one sets the tone: "You've got to know the rules to break them. That's what I'm here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition."

Showcased are a series of basic black but elegant suits in various creative ways, from extended jacket collars to collars that are connected, an elaborate jacket decorated with numerous buttons. The tailoring is exquisite, the backbone of McQueen's work.

There's also a black jacket that's embroidered with gold thread in what looks like a long wavy dragon tail that ends inside the mouth of a human scull.

The spray-painted dress
Then there's a video of a model in a long flared strapless dress standing on a rotating table who is surrounded by two machines that squirt paint on her dress in black and neon yellow. After they're finished she walks up and down the runway, the audience clapping at the ingenious spontaneous performance art. And below the video is the actual dress on a mannequin.

McQueen looked to nature for inspiration and one of the corsets features the skeletal back of a dinosaur tail or a headdress of butterflies made from feathers, or more jackets made from feathers, baby alligator heads used as epaulettes. He also used wood and glass.

Asia features in his designs too, with a wooden fan-like skirt, or a headdress with a Chinese garden carved from cork. There's one collection called "It's Just a Game" where samurai warriors meet football where shoulder pads are decorated with Japanese designs, and burlap dresses have beautiful embroidery on them, skirts have layered shells on them. Embroidered shoes are elevated platform footwear reminiscent of those worn by imperial beauties.

He also promotes his Scottish heritage with his reinterpretation of the tartan. Dresses have the tartan placed like a wavy pattern, each of the squares matching perfectly, or added with black lace or black beading.

Milliner Philip Treacy's work features prominently in the collections and McQueen surely challenged him to make his designs into reality. McQueen also liked to cover up the models' faces with masks that made them completely expressionless, the face and head a part of the entire outfit.

A dramatic crimson cape
There was a hologram of Kate Moss that was featured in one of McQueen's shows as points of light create a vague image that soon morphs into Kate Moss in an elaborately layered cream-coloured organza dress. She looks as if she's floating, and she's in her bare feet.

At the end of the show is of course the gift shop and many snapped up the book of the exhibition with a cover of a hologram of a skull and Alexander McQueen's face. However the coffee table book cannot even do justice to what we saw -- each section put together beautifully and present a better understanding of the designer's endless fascination with so many things.

However what was kind of morbid was McQueen's obsession with death and what happens in the afterlife. He felt that as a designer it was important for him to force people to look at violent or disturbing things, to force viewers to see the reality of things.

Bodysuit made of black beading
It's so sad to see such a creative mind cut his life so short. One can only wonder what he would have done next. Or was it all too much for him to bear? Had he exhausted every design possibility?

One will never know and we'll forever wonder what might have been.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York
Until August 7, 2011

1 comment:

  1. how come such a talented man has to choose death. is it an aedipus complex that he just cannot syrvie without his mother- for a man 40 years of age?? what a waste of such a talent.