If you haven’t seen Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty already, now is the time to go! Although you will probably need to wait for hours before getting into the Met (the queue is up to 8 blocks long) the long wait bears fruit! Last weekend, the exhibition, which will end August 7, set an attendance record at the Met with more than 582,000 people having seen Savage Beauty.
The exhibition, organized by the Met’s The Costume Institute features the work of the late Alexander McQueen. The exhibition was brought together by curator Andrew Bolton along with Harold Koda, both of The Costume Institute.
Savage Beauty reveals McQueen as a true artist, whose manipulation of the medium of fashion brought messages about culture, politics, and other uncomfortable truths to the attention of society. The exhibition runs from McQueen’s Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection of 1992 to the designer’s final, and post-mortem, runway presentation in February 2010.
From his nineteen-year career, about one hundred ensembles and seventy accessories appear in the exhibition. The pieces were mostly taken from the Alexander McQueen Archive in London, though some were drawn from the Givenchy Archive in Paris and still others were from private collections. The “bumster” trouser, the kimono jacket, and the three-point origami frock coat, all of which are signatures of the late designer, will be staples of the exhibition as well as the backbone of the exaggerated silhouette, another of McQueen’s trademarks.
The exhibition’s appeal comes in great part from the visceral reaction McQueen’s pieces engender. The clothes portray at one moment nature, at another moment war, at another a fantastical animal, and many other wildly divergent images. Holland Cotter described the uniqueness of the clothes in his review of the exhibition in The New York Times: “[the] clothes come at you like electrical zaps: a blouse threaded with worms, a coat sprouting horns, shoes that devour feet. A pert little jacket is printed with a crucifixion scene; the hair on a full-length hair shirt is carefully waved and combed; a corset has a cast-metal animal spine curling out from behind.” Perhaps Savage Beauty, as its pieces make windows into the extraordinary, has made us feel that untouchable part of the world beyond, that part we cannot name, a rare beauty we must (dare) say is art.