Savage Beauty (exhibition)
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 record attendance for the museum. The curator was Andrew Bolton.
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 Costume Institute 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. 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.
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. Other notable collections in the exhibit include Dante, #13, VOSS, Irere, and Plato's Atlantis, as well as Banshee, Highland Rape, The Widows of Culloden (including the original life-size hologram of Kate Moss), and Horn of Plenty.
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". 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. 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." 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."
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. To accommodate the large crowds, the Met offered a special $50 ticket to view the exhibit on Mondays, when the museum is usually closed. Over 17,000 of these tickets were sold. The Met also allowed its members to skip the line; museum membership increased 15%, with 20,000 new memberships sold during the show. During the final weekend of the exhibition, lines stretched to over four hours, and the museum stayed open until midnight for the first time in its history. By the time the exhibit closed, over 650,000 people had seen it, making it one of the most popular exhibits in the museum's history, and its most popular fashion exhibit ever.
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- "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty - About the Exhibition". V&A. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
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