By Laura Werling
You may have heard of the staggering, brutal heat that takes over New York City around mid-July. However, there’s no need to worry about makeup dripping down your face; I have an inspiring way to get through the hot summer days in the luxury of air conditioning. My suggestion involves putting on your walking shoes and your sunnies and taking public transportation uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This summer, the most-talked about and anticipated exhibition at the Met is the retrospective of the work of the late fashion designer, Alexander McQueen. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is an awe-inspiring collection of the designer’s work from all points during his career. Admission is free with entry into the museum. The exhibition was titled aptly to reflect the opposites that often are the epitome of McQueen’s designs, whether it is the opposites of life and death, light and dark, predator and prey, or man versus machine. There was an incredible air of romance throughout, yet the ethereal darkness created an environment so intriguing; it was like no other exhibition I’ve ever seen. Each piece has stunning detail and exquisitely delicate features, despite some of the dark references to death.
It is clear by the evolution of McQueen’s work that he never held back or stifled any part of his imagination; he promoted freedom of thought and expression and channeled it into his pristine craftsmanship. The exhibit labeled McQueen as a “Romantic Individual”, the hero-artist who bravely innovates and allows the spontaneity of his imagination to run free. He was deeply influenced by history and often referenced his Scottish heritage in his work. Each collection was intensely felt and had an evolution; each one told a story. Nature was a huge presence in all of his work, and over the span of McQueen’s career, each collection told a narrative of the glorification of nature and always favored the idea of the “natural man” or “nature’s gentleman”, which lives free of civilization’s constructs.
My personal favorite part of the exhibition is the hologram of Kate Moss, slowly swirling around, weightless and unearthly. The dress she wears is organic and soft, something different from McQueen’s usual precision in tailoring. The hologram was shown as the finale of McQueen’s 2006 show Widows of Culloden. This was a breathtaking and stunning experience to see. It made me understand how complex McQueen’s mind was, how profound.
A few of my favorite McQueen quotes from the exhibition:
“You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.”
“People find my things sometimes aggressive. But I don’t see it as aggressive. I see it as romantic, dealing with a dark side of personality.”
“Let’s break down some barriers.”
The exhibit is on view through August 7, 2011. http://blog.metmuseum.org/alexandermcqueen/about/