Art, London

Savage Beauty

21 May 2015

The Victoria & Albert Museum in Knightsbridge proudly displays a deep retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s works named Savage Beauty.
The exhibition in on until the 2nd of August 2015 and even though the ticket is not the cheapest (16£) it is really worth visiting.
If you are a student you can get a discount and pay 9£, which I did, but I would have even payed the full price.
When you buy your ticket you are allocated in a time slot which may be after a couple of hours.
No worries, you have the entire V&A Museum to visit! You can lay on the grass in the garden or have a cup of tea in the beautiful food hall.

The exhibition is highly captivating: the music, the setting up and the dresses are interconnected and lead you through McQueen’s mind.
Alexander McQueen was born in Lewisham, London. Son of a taxi driver and of a science teacher, he left school at 15 to become a tailor’s apprentice in Savile Row, a street in Mayfair know for its tailors’ shop. He then moved to military tailors and theatrical costumiers.
In 1990 he enrolled in Central Saint Martins  where most British designers studied. He initially applied for a tutor job but since his cv was outstanding (he went to Italy where he became Romeo Gigli’s fashion assistant) he was convinced to apply for a MA.
He had an extraordinary career: creative director of Givenchy, founder of its own label and four times British Designer of the Year, but what kind of footprint he left in the fashion industry?

He said he was a romantic schizophrenic, where romantic means a way of expressing the Romantic feelings of dramatic intensity, wonder and terror, incredulity and revulsion, shock and awe associated with the sublime.
The first section’s focus is on London as birthplace and inspiration of McQueen works.
His creations for the graduation collection already showed both innovation in cutting and constructing methods and military heritage from his apprenticeship.
In the background, McQueen’s voice.

Alexander McQueen- Savage Beauty (FILEminimizer)Among his inspirations were Hitchcock’s The Birds (as you can see on the orangy jacket in the next picture) and Jack the Ripper.
He designed his dresses from the side thus getting the worse angle of the body so as to predict the global final effect.
Many early collections incorporated labels containing a lock of his own hair in order to create a stronger connection between designer and dresses.

Alexander McQueen- Savage Beauty (1) (FILEminimizer)The second section is all about Victorian Gothic, one of the strongest inspirations of McQueen.
The scene completely changes: old mirrors, golden frames e classic-goth music in the background as an expression of regal decay.

gotico“”There’s some kind of Edgar Allan Poe kind of deep and kind of melancholic about my collections” through a constant dichotomy between horror and romance, life and death, lightness and darkness, melancholy and beauty.

piume nere (FILEminimizer)The following room is dark with tribal drums playing in the background. Skulls and bones on the wall, we are in a crypt.
McQueen looked at ancient African tribes in the It’s A Jungle Out There!  collection, analysing the relationship between predator and prey, modern and primitive, civilised and uncivilised.
His narrative magnified the state of nature and tipped the moral balance in favour of the nature’s gentlemen free from the artificial constructs of civilisation.
The dresses are covered with earth, sewed with wooden pearls or entirely made with leather and hair.

cripta (FILEminimizer)The ambience changes again.
This time the room is bright and classical anthems are played.
The main focus is on Romantic Nationalism as shown by the dressed on the right: red, white and golden colours remind of the history of England. The creations are part of The Girl Who Lived In The Tree, his most romantically nationalistic collection.

red-beaded (FILEminimizer)The left side of the room is all about McQueen’s tartan, a pattern symbol of his Scottish heritage.
His Widows of Culloden collection was based on the final battle of the Jacobite Risings.
He once said: “What the British did there was nothing short of genocide“, which was the same message of his early Highland Rape collection.

tartanThe following room is a black Cabinet of Curiosities.
You will find unusual accessories such as butterfly and bird’s nest headdresses, crucifix masks, crown of thorns, horns, armadillo boots and jaw bone mouth pieces. Incredible dresses as the fan dress are placed on turning mannequins just as they were in a music box.
On the screens, the videos of his fashion shows.
The black cabinet leaves you with a feeling of oppression and suffocation.

alexander-mcqueen-savage-beauty-vmcqueen (FILEminimizer)Romantic Exoticism is the main theme of the subsequent section where dresses with Japanese, Chinese, Turkish and Indian influences are displayed.

AlexanderMcQueen_SavageBeauty_ph_Solve_Sundsbo_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art_1Light and nature are the focus of the Romantic Naturalism section.
Nature has been the most enduring influence upon McQueen.
Nevertheless the dichotomy life-death is always present: he used flowers because they die.

flowers (FILEminimizer)12-mcqueensp2007sarabandeflowersThe last theme of the exhibition is Plato’s Atlantis, McQueen’s last collection and fashion show.
Fascinated by Plato’s prediction of a future in which the ice cap would melt, waters would rise and the humans would have to evolve in order to survive, he created a collection focusing on the devolution of the species.
Considered by the large majority as his best fashion show, it was characterised by the union of nature and technology. As a consequence you will hear techno music in the background.
The vivid colours and the natural patterns show their futuristic side.

V-and-A-savage-beauty-exhibition-8 (FILEminimizer)plato

I want to empower women.
I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.

This exhibition was initially set up at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts (New York).
The curators and all the people who made this possible made a truly amazing job.
You can really feel Alexander McQueen’s aura.

Since I was not allowed to take pictures inside the exhibition, they all are from the V&A’s and Metropolitan Museum’s websites.

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