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Savage Beauty

Culture Watch
Look from Alexander McQueen's 'Widows of Culloden', Autumn/Winter 2006-2007.

Each Spring the Metropolitan Museum in New York turns its focus to fashion with an epic showcase at its Costume Institute. Exhibitions have ranged from the role of the superhero in fashion trends, the house of Chanel and British fashion. This year the Costume Institute takes a look at one British designer whose work has had a profound effect on contemporary fashion: Alexander McQueen.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty spans the career of the late great designer from his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection in 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death last February. The exhibition—approximately 100 examples of Mr. McQueen’s work—will be organized into different recurring themes and concepts in McQueen’s work: “The Savage Mind” which will examine his subversion of traditional tailoring and dressmaking practices through displacement and deconstruction. “Romantic Gothic” will highlight McQueen’s narrative approach to fashion and illuminate his engagement with Romantic literary traditions such as death, decay, and darkness. It will also reveal the main characters of his collections, including femme fatales and anti-heroes such as pirates and highwaymen. “Romantic Nationalism” will look at McQueen’s fascination with the distant past, while “Romantic Exoticism” will examine his focus on distant places. “Romantic Primitivism” will explore McQueen’s engagement with the ideal of the “noble savage.”

Drawn primarily from the Alexander McQueen Archive in London, signature designs including the bumster trouser, the kimono jacket, and the Origami frock coat will be on view. Five of McQueen’s landmark collections will be interspersed among the galleries. Among them are Dante (autumn/winter 1996-97), Number 13 (spring/ summer 1999), Voss (spring/summer 2001), Irere (spring/summer 2003), and Plato’s Atlantis (spring/summer 2010). A separate screening room will display videos of McQueen’s renowned runway presentations.

The exhibition will kick off on May 2 with the famed fundraising gala—and major source of fashion fodder—The Met Ball, this year chaired by François-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek, and co-chairs Colin Firth, Stella McCartney and Anna Wintour.

Savage Beauty is on view from May 4 to August 7 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

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