When I first learned that The Metropolitan Museum of Art was hosting yet another exhibition showcasing a famous fashion designer, I was less than thrilled to check it out. However, I am glad that I did not hold back on visiting "Savage Beauty," a rare and eccentric collection of fashion and accessories from late designer Alexander McQueen. (If you do not know who he is, Google pictures of "Lady Gaga," and consider whether her outfit looks really outrageous. If it does, it's probably by McQueen.)*.
McQueen, who committed suicide last year, shortly before his 41st birthday, was a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. He dared to be different and each item he designed was as much a work of art as it was something to wear. His designs were often provocative, dark, and, in his own words, had "an underlying sexuality" and "perverseness." He was and remains, even posthumously, highly controversial, and the reasons are clear as you make your way through the lengthy exhibit.
One of the first pieces of "art" you see as you enter the exhibit is a stunning dress made of red glass and feathers. (I must admit, at first glance I was reminded of Zoolander's Mugatu's "Derelicte" campaign...). Sound tame? As you continue along, don't miss the jacket on which the back is painted with Jesus on the Cross and, for a person of the right proportions, the wearer's body might line up with that of Jesus', and the wearer's outstretched arms would appear to be on the Cross as well. Moving on, you will come to the first room where the darkness of McQueen's designs really set in. An element of forbidden sexual desires emerges in designs that incorporate capes, masks, and black leather dominatrix-seeming outfits. As you wander through the many rooms of this exhibit, you will continue to come upon many bizarre, and some strangely beautiful, couture. In the accessories room, one of the mannequins wears a metal spine with a tail, while another wears a connected headband and armband made of metal thorns. It seems nothing was too shocking or too outrageous for McQueen.
Also make sure to be on the lookout for the use of varied media throughout the exhibit. One not-to-be-missed video involves a female model who walks out in an all-white dress, but is soon "attacked" by machines (robots of a sort, I think) that spew colors all over her, creating, in the end, a unique splatter pattern that could never be replicated.
"Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" is on display through August 7, 2011. Don't miss it! For more information, visit The Met's website or read the museum's press release on this exhibition.
UPDATE: Luxury rental management company, Glenwood NYC's Manhattan Living Blog recently featured the Savage Beauty exhibit and has some great pictures and more descriptions of what you can see here.