Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Last Days of Alexander McQueen

Inside the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo from The New York Times)

"I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress."
Alexander McQueen

On Friday I ran up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 8:30 a.m. to see the Costume Institute's blockbuster show Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty which closed on Sunday. Last year we went to the opening of the Costume Institute show where I had the chance to interview Anna Wintour, but this year because of scheduling I made it up just before the McQueen show closed.

As you probably know the Alexander McQueen show was sensationally popular and in the end it turned out to be one of the ten most visited exhibitions in the history of the museum. The extravagant production paid tribute to the gifted British designer who committed suicide last year at age 40, and everyone wanted to see it.

At 8:30 a.m. there were already lines going up Fifth Avenue of people waiting to get in to see the show. Fortunately I had a VIP pass so I was able to go directly into the exhibit on the second floor. The very first room of the show, which highlighted McQueen's gift for fine tailoring and featured exquisite jackets and trousers, was my favorite.

Then it was into more galleries of his fantastical designs made with glossy black feathers, funereal Victorian lace, blood red velvets and mad touches like little alligator heads used as epaulettes. The galleries were dark – with walls of black or smokey glass or cement block, and the audio effects included howling winds, growling wolves, creaking doors and monster noises. The environment was spooky which matched the Gothic sensibility of the imaginative designer.

" I oscillate between life and death, happiness and sadness, good and evil."
Alexander McQueen

The price I paid for waiting until the last days was that the galleries were very crowded but I did my best to see what I could including a small hologram from a McQueen fashion show which featured Kate Moss floating and spinning over the runway like an angel in a dreamy flowing gown of white organza with raw edges. By the end of the exhibit the visitor certainly did fully understand the momentous and singular talent of Mr. McQueen, and felt the sadness of his tragic loss.

I left the exhibit and passed the long waiting line strung through the second floor. When I went down the Grand Staircase I saw that the line circled around the second floor galleries of the Great Hall; all of the museum was one long line to get into the show! Outside on the sidewalk in the hot sun the line on Fifth Avenue circled back and forth, and this was at 11 a.m. I've been going to the Metropolitan Museum for thirty years and I've never seen anything like it.

Now, the show is gone, dismantled to make way for a new exhibition called Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100-1900. But, with the magic of the internet, you can tour the McQueen show here with its curator Andrew Bolton:

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