On Monday, I stopped by Manhattan's Met Museum to check out this year's much-talked-about Costume Institute exhibit, "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty." And, fittingly, after wandering through the series of rooms lined with the late designer's greatest hits and several more obscure offerings, I was and still am truly at a loss for words.
I used the audio guide to fill in some for me. McQueen's teacher at Central St. Martin's described his final school project, a pink coat called "Jack the Ripper," explaining that even as a student, his work always had a story to tell. Milliner Philip Treacy recalled a "Bird Hat" he once made for McQueen out of pieces of wood he found in a forest. While looking for materials, he was approached by a guy who thought he was cruising (read: trying to pick up men), an anecdote that Alexander apparently found to be hysterical at the time.
One voice recounted hanging Kate Moss on wires to film her for the hologram that ended the 2006 "Widows of Culloden" show, in the wake of her tabloid scandal. Another spoke of McQueen's obsession with the kimono. Even passersby were making apt observations, like, "His stuff is certainly shocking, but it's more that it's form fitting...there's no skin showing," and, "You know, his 'Highland Rape' collection wasn't even about women, it was about England and Scotland."
Just the idea that each piece had a plot behind it was as overwhelming as the items themselves -- intricate embroidery, feathered frocks, fresh flowers, a neckpiece made from what appeared to be turkeys' heads and gullets, the infamous Armadillo shoes, a crimson breastplate that reached over the mannequin's face with a place for the eyes cut out.
McQueen once remarked, "I find beauty in the grotesque. Like most artists, I have to force people to look at things."
With this exhibit, that's no longer the case.
"Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" runs through July 31 at the Met. For a blurry preview, courtesy of my iPhone, see below.