Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty Exhibit: Reflections, Gallery

The ghost of Alexander McQueen haunts the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By , Contributor

Metropolitan Museum of Art/

The same voices that once inspired Alexander McQueen's brilliance and, ultimately, contributed to his demise are speaking volumes in the hallowed halls of the Costume Institute at the Met.

Cross the threshold and you bear witness to McQueen's fantasies, expertly interpreted by curator Andrew Bolton's own spectacular vision. Each gallery is tribute to a period, emotion, spirit or whim, a befitting background for each visceral collection. John Gosling's textural music is the auditory guide in tandem with the incessant murmur of the crowd. One can't help but outwardly exclaim awe, shock, disturbance and, above all, appreciation for Alexander McQueen's brilliance.


Many celebs in attendance, pictured: Francois-Henri Pinault, Salma Hayak Stella McCartney, Anna Wintour, Colin Firth -- below left, Colin Firth, below right, Madonna

The exhibition illustrates the sum of all of his complicated parts: bespoke tailor, couturier, costume designer and madman...all, as I mentioned, brilliantly. He was a conceptual artist who used fashion as his playground. I spent three hours weaving my way in and out of docents, students, historians, rabid fans and the simply curious. I was reluctant to leave. It was a lavish feast that left me wanting more.

wenn3324926.jpgThe show begins in a stark room that illustrates McQueen's Savile Row roots. The impeccable craftsmanship for which he is known is represented beautifully. The discipline of men's tailoring married to the whims of draping and dressmaking create pieces that defined his path.  Extended hips and shoulders, heightened collars, elongated sleeves and tailcoats that flatter and flaunt a woman's figure are visual testimony to his technical virtuosity and unapologetic sensibility.

"You've got to know the rules to break them," so said McQueen, "that's what I'm here for, to demolish the rules and keep the tradition."

This prolific body of work is bound by the idea of romanticism. The galleries spill you, one by one, into his world of the Romantic Mind, Romantic Gothic, Romantic Nationalism, Romantic Exoticism and Primitivism. The Cabinet of Curiosities houses a wearable sculpture garden masked as shoes, hats, headdresses and shoulder plates. Philip Treacy, the most royal of milliners, and Shaun Leane are the men behind this singular madness. McQueen celebrates 'the accessory for its sadomasochistic aspect.' I concur. To wear any of these pieces might be akin to torture, however magnificent is each creation.

Horsehair, pearls, feathers, skins, etched glass, silver and tin, shells, plastic, balsa wood, glass beads, intricate embroidery and paillettes, applied to the finest and meanest of fabrics are the stuff of McQueen's fancy.

Wend your way through the darkness of Gothic Romanticism where his rigid roots are in evidence in the fitted, woven leather dress or the lace corset. The billowing parachute silk speaks to his departure from the Row.  McQueen touts Edgar Allan Poe as an inspiration and the Brothers Grimm. Indeed, grim and inspired!

wenn5646998.jpgRomantic Nationalism harkens back to McQueen's Scottish heritage with his customary twist.  The family tartan is draped and embellished for a haute Highland bad girl. Once again, incredibly inspired, however, layered with darkness. He felt that his beloved country had been the monarchy's victim and thiswas his sartorial response. A staunch anti-monarchist, he nevertheless heralded London as his home and inspiration. The irony is not lost given Kate's choice of the House of McQueen.

Romantic Exoticism, Primitivism and Naturalism expose his genius for what it is - unfettered and beyond imagination. He reconfigures and elevates a kimono to another plane; applies exquisite embroidery to a jute dress, weaves silk and fresh flowers, only to see the latter rot...and on. This is where he shows his respect for the simple and the sublime. Horsehair and intricate glass beads combine to astound, flowers wither.

There are no boundaries here, only brash beauty meant to evoke a response.

Prophetically, McQueen said, "There's no way back for me now, I am going to take you on journeys you've never dreamed possible."

Step into the Met and hold're in for an amazing ride.

View gallery: Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty Exhibit Gallery

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Cynthia Carr Gardner is a free-lance stylist in New York, Los Angeles and Boston. She began her career at Glamour Magazine as a sportswear editor and arbiter of the famed 'Do's and Don'ts.' Her work spans 33 years incorporating feature films, commercials, and currently, personal stylist for ESPN Monday…

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