Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Bittersweet symphony - MET honors Alexander Lee McQueen with a retrospective

Last night, May 2nd 2011, the annual Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was all about a bittersweet farewell. The gala was the opening event to the annual exhibition of the Costume Institute, which this year is dedicated to Alexander Lee McQueen. From May 4 until July 31st, the MET will be hosting "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" - a tribute to the late designer extraordinaire and his prolific career.
From his graduation from Central Saint Martins in 1992, where his long lasting confidante Isabelle Blow bought his entire first collection to his final one, which was shown posthumously in March 2010, the exhibition shows a careful selection of his magnum opus.

The exhibits were primarily selected from the Alexander McQueen archives in London and complemented by pieces of private collections and the Givenchy archive in Paris. Two production designers of his fashion shows - namely Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett - have been serving as creative director and production designer for the exhibit, which clearly suggests that the setting of the exposition will not only display the remarkable garments but also the poetic narrative behind every collection.

Also, the setting of the Costume Institute gala was fit for McQueen. Scottish bagpipes paid tribute to the designer's Scottish origin, while a replica of an oak tree in the Great Hall of the MET referenced to the ones on McQueen's property in Sussex, England.

Just as the title, which already epitomises the designers inner conflict and his subsequent perception of aesthetics, "Savage Beauty" is an exhibition which displays the omnipresent duality Alexander McQueen has mastered to build his collections around like no other. Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute, tells that Lee McQueen sometimes referred to himself as the Edgar Allan Poe of fashion, yet besides the strong narrative, the craftsmanship and creative mind of McQueen are highlighted throughout the exhibition. The exhibition is fragmented into themes - The Romantic Mind, Romantic Gothic, Cabinet of Curiosities, Romantic Nationalism, Romantic Exoticism, Romantic Primitivism and Romantic Naturalism - and takes the visitor through the different stages in the designers career. His different inspirations and fervours like art, painting, history, literature are paid tribute throughout every theme. Also, the staging of the garments is accompanied by footage of his ten most iconic fashion show moments, which again underline his talent as a storyteller, his sense for a grand entrance and his - in the fashion world- unmatched cinematic showmanship.
The MET's blog offers a beautiful selection of video excerpts of Alexander McQueen's fashion shows and a brief illustration of the exhibit by curator Andrew Bolton.

The MET gala - which marked the opening of the exhibit devoted to the British designer usually has a lot of gloriously glamorous fashion moments to offer...this year however, the priviliged attendees excelled by flaunting a ravishing array of Alexander McQueens late designs. Also, some other spectactular robes - i.e. Zac Posen, Givenchy, Pucci & Stella McCartney supplied that extra dose of glamour and drama. My personal favorites - and this time it was truly hard to pick were: Karolina Kurkova in Jean Paul Gaultier, Christina Ricci in Zac Posen, Crystal Renn in Zac Posen, Giselle B√ľndchen in Alexander McQueen and Salma Hayek in Alexander McQueen.

Quote of the evening: When asked how McQueen would have reacted on a gala and exhibition hosted in his honour, Philip Treacy, one of the designers confidants dryly responded "He would not have come".


Source: blog.metmuseum.org, www.style.com, WWD.com, www.wmagazine.com
Picture Source: blog.metmuseum.org, www.wmagazine.com

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