On 17 July 2011, my sister and three of her friends turned up at the MET hoping to visit the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition. Timing, queues, heatwave and lack of tickets decided otherwise. However, she didn’t leave the premises without a stroll through the museum grounds and purchasing her beloved sister (that’s me) the show catalogue in the gift shop.
With no trip to New York City before the exhibition closed and and a memory-less sister, I can only rely on the book and segments seen on blogs and TV to mind-visit the exhibition.
For a long time, I had my eyes set on either McQueen or Galliano designing my would-be wedding dress. His death upset me more than I expected and I can only imagine how I would feel discovering his work in four dimensions rather than on flat pages. I can only imagine how the changing background perfectly completes the Plato’s Atlantis collection. I can only imagine how, once in the context of his lifetime oeuvre, McQueen’s bumsters suddenly change meaning. I can only imagine how windblowing and turning platforms brings the garments to life. I can only imagine how tailoring completes diaphanous, how structured completes volume. I can only imagine how, no matter how beautiful the exhibition looks in the pictures and videos, the real-life thing is much be more striking and disturbing, more dreamy and macabre. I can only hope the exhibition will come to London or Paris after all.
As for the book, it’s a rather complete rendering of McQueen’s work and vision with a great interview of Sarah Burton by Tim Blanks where she details his work process (“Lee always designed each look as a complete look, with shoes, hair and makeup”), his love of big shows (“He used to say, “This is the last big one we’re doing”, but he couldn’t help himself”) and how he saw himself (“he always called himself a designer, not an artist. He was a showman more than anything”). The hologram cover is a tribute to McQueen’s love of the fantastic and the macabre: depending on the book’s orientation, you either see a skull or his face. One regret though: it is displayed on mannequins on a dark background rather than in situ, as shown in the museum.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Andrew Bolton (Yale University Press, 2011)