Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

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Exhibits from the "Savage Beauty" exhibition

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was an art exhibition held in 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring clothing created by British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, as well as accessories created for his runway shows. The exhibit was extremely popular in New York City and resulted in what was then record attendance for the museum.[1] The curators were Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda.[2]

The show opened on May 4, a little more than one year after McQueen's death, and closed on August 7.


The exhibit was organized by the museum's Anna Wintour Costume Center and curated by Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda. The exhibit featured McQueen's pieces from the archives of his own London fashion house, Alexander McQueen, and of the Parisian couture house Givenchy, as well as pieces held in private collections.[3] The show is composed of six separate galleries, arranged by theme: "The Romantic Mind", featuring some of his oldest work in the early 1990s; "Romantic Gothic and the Cabinet of Curiosities", featuring his exploration of Victorian Gothic themes; "Romantic Nationalism", examining Scottish and British identity; "Romantic Exoticism", examining non-western influences in his designs; "Romantic Primitivism", featuring natural materials and organic designs; and "Romantic Naturalism", featuring his attempts to integrate themes of the natural world with technology.[3]

The exhibit includes pieces from his first major collection, Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims, created during his graduate studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.[4] Other notable collections in the exhibit include Dante, #13, VOSS, Irere, and Plato's Atlantis,[5] as well as Banshee, Highland Rape, The Widows of Culloden (including the original life-size hologram of Kate Moss), and Horn of Plenty.[4]


Queues outside the exhibition, August 3, 2011

The exhibit was widely praised by critics in the international press. Hilary Alexander of The Daily Telegraph called it "an absorbing, astounding walk through the extraordinary convolutions of his mind, and the technical virtuosity he could summon up in order to turn his ideas and thoughts into reality".[4] Holland Cotter of The New York Times wrote that the show "is a button-pushing marvel: ethereal and gross, graceful and utterly manipulative, and poised on a line where fashion turns into something else", but also noted that the exhibit steers clear of addressing questions about the contradictions in his work.[6] Suzy Menkes of The International Herald Tribune also had some issues with the presentation: "Mr. Bolton might have discussed the designer’s place in the British art scene, alongside the Chapman brothers, or compared his fascination with nature’s decadence with that of Damien Hirst. Instead, we get Sarah Jessica Parker’s breathless and witless take on the McQueen style." Overall, though, she said the exhibit "is exciting, stimulating and thought-provoking – and a raw vision of the wild McQueen imagination."[7] Judith Thurman of The New Yorker advised that "even if you never bother with fashion shows, go to this one. Andrew Bolton ... has assembled a hundred ensembles and seventy accessories ... and he gives their history and psychology an astute reading."[8]

The show was also extremely popular with the public, leading the museum to take extraordinary measures to meet demand. Originally scheduled to run only until July 31 that year, it was extended through August 7. Patrons waited in lines of up to two hours to see the exhibit.[9] To accommodate the large crowds, the Met offered a special $50 ticket to view the exhibit on Mondays, when the museum was usually closed.[10][11] Over 17,000 of these tickets were sold.[12] The Met also allowed its members to skip the line; museum membership increased 15%, with 20,000 new memberships sold during the show.[12] During the final weekend of the exhibition, lines stretched to over four hours,[13] and the museum stayed open until midnight for the first time in its history.[9] By the time the exhibit closed, over 650,000 people had seen it,[14] making it one of the most popular exhibits in the museum's history, and its most popular fashion exhibit ever.[15]

Subsequent showings[edit]

From March 14, 2015 to August 2, 2015, the exhibition was housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it was similarly well-received.[16][17][18] Ticket sales exceeding 480,000 prompted museum management to implement overnight hours during the show’s final two weekends in order to meet demand.[19] This was the first time the museum had ever extended its hours this way to accommodate interest in an exhibition.[20]

Dress display at the Victoria and Albert Museum


  1. ^ Orden, Erica (22 July 2011). "Met Hits 40-Year Attendance Record". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  2. ^ Trebay, Guy (29 April 2015). "At the Met, Andrew Bolton Is the Storyteller in Chief". New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b "About the Exhibition". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Alexander, Hilary (2 May 2011). "Alexander McQueen's 'Savage Beauty' honoured in style". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  5. ^ "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art N.Y.C". Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  6. ^ Cotter, Holland (4 May 2011). "Designer as Dramatist, and the Tales He Left Behind". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  7. ^ Menkes, Suzy (2 May 2011). "Alexander McQueen in All His Dark Glory". The International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  8. ^ Thurman, Judith (16 May 2011). "Dressed to Thrill". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  9. ^ a b Vogel, Carol (27 July 2011). "Met Museum to Stay Open for McQueen Show Later Than Ever Before". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  10. ^ Kennedy, Randy (31 May 2011). "Met Museum to Add Hours, Charge $50 to Accommodate McQueen Show Crowds". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  11. ^ Vogel, Carol (11 July 2011). "Met's McQueen Show Adds Yet More Hours". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  12. ^ a b Swanson, Abbie Fentress (5 August 2011). "Hundreds Line Up to See Alexander McQueen Show Before it Closes". Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  13. ^ Hollander, Sophia (6 August 2011). "Not Since the 'Mona Lisa'..." The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  14. ^ Beja, Marc (7 August 2011). "Thousands show up for last day of Met's McQueen exhibit". Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  15. ^ "McQueen show shuts in NY after record attendance". AFP. 6 August 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  16. ^ "Ikon London Magazine coverage of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Fashion Gala". Ikon London Magazine. 14 March 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty - About the Exhibition". V&A. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  18. ^ Dowd, Vincent (10 March 2015). "Alexander McQueen: Revolutionary and friend". BBC News. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is most popular show in V&A's history". The Guardian. August 3, 2015. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  20. ^ "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is most popular show in V&A's history". The Guardian. August 3, 2015. Retrieved October 29, 2015.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°46′47″N 73°57′47″W / 40.7798°N 73.9630°W / 40.7798; -73.9630