McQUEEN!

June 11, 2011

Brilliant is really the very best word to describe the retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s work currently at the Met.  I expected to be fascinated with his work but not blown away by it AND the people responsible for curating the show did an amazing job of displaying his work.  You are initially greeted by two dresses in a very dark corridor, a red lace dress much like the one Lady Gaga helped make iconic and the masterpiece of razor clam shells seen above.  Your eyes are still adjusting to the lack of light in the space when your hit with this one-two punch of amazing couture from such a talented young man.  As you progress into the show you find some very tailored and precise jackets, suits, coats and dresses all in blacks and deep neutrals.  This is where McQueen the showman is presented as McQueen the tailor.  The cuts and details to these pieces are fascinating and modern ( think ThierryMugler and Issey Miyake ) sleeve cut-outs, grommets, buttons and truly unique styling… so unique I don’t possess the words to describe how the fabric is manipulated into shapes and forms that feel somewhat familiar but new and different at the same time.

The show opens into a room clad wall to wall in antique mirror and deep gold frames, the setting is brilliant for the gowns and dresses displayed in this french salon meets discotheque.  It’s one beautiful creation after another, some open and so close you could touch them, others are under glass in oversized display cases all framed out in the same deep gold moulding, precious works of art from feathers, tulle, lace and so on.  The hand painted gold feather jacket with standing shawl collar is a standout, the glossy and shiny feathers juxtaposed by a tulle skirt flaring into a fishtail just below the knee, but would you believe the show stopper in this room is a parachute jacket that is being fed wind to allow the coat to fill with air and more dramatically with the music being piped in.  So at this point you are in awe of the work, detail and creativity this man possessed and that of the Met employees and perhaps McQueen staff who pulled this amazing show together – get ready for it – and BAM!  you’re hit by the most successful room of the show…  you are in a curiosity cabinet, surrounded by head-pieces, shoes, masks, jewelry, breast-plates, and dresses most of which have animal, bone, twig or otherwise natural leanings.  floor to ceiling shelves charred black by fire are lit beautifully and make each object pop out of the darkness, I snuck this picture of a butterfly hat made from turkey feathers made to look like butterflies, magical!

There are several more rooms of clothing to see, all beautiful, but at this point you begin to realize how important and successful the back-drops are and how critical to the show they are.  There is a wood-paneled room, geometric marquetry wraps the walls and sconces case a warm glow over a collection of royal feeling red capes, bejeweled dresses and masks.  Beyond that the wood changes to horizontal barn board on the platforms and walls, refined is now rough, silk and jewels is now wool plaids and shredded lace.  The collection in this room was called Highland Rape.   After a perfect installation of the wood a giant gouge  was torn through the floor and wall creating a cravasse that seems to represent the violence and physicality of rape.

…Would you believe theres more?  Well there is, lots in fact but I’m going to tell you anymore.  Instead I urge you all to try and get to New York ( if you live there already and you havent seen this how, shame on you) and go to the Met to see this stellar show.

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