Savage Beauty

by Chikashi

Alexander McQueenIf you have not yet been to the Alexander McQueen exhibition titled Savage Beauty at the Victoria & Albert Museum, then I recommend you make the time to go. If you have ever heard of the name Alexander McQueen, go. If you are even remotely interested in fashion but somehow managed never to have heard of his name, then go. There is a limited number of tickets available, so buy them soon. (You will need to buy tickets even if you are a paid up member of V&A.)

The immensely popular exhibit is sold out on most days for all time slots. They even issued extra tickets to supplement the original allocation. Therefore, I had expected a crowded environment that made viewing difficult, particularly on a Saturday. However, my concern was completely misplaced. My time slot was sold out, but it wasn’t overly crowded. I was able to view each piece without any problems. V&A got the ticket allocation size right, a refreshing change from a typical blockbuster in major cities where it feels more like an effing bazaar than an exhibition.

Viewing a piece of work by a given creator is, in a sense, a very two dimensional experience because it rarely gives one a glimpse of the creator’s mind. When a broad collection of oeuvres over a period of time is presented upon skillful and caring curatorship, then it can not only show the depth and breadth of the creator’s genius but also a peek into his mind. Or, at least I felt as though I was able to get a glimpse of McQueen’s complex, intense and stormy mind, thanks to the outstanding curatorship.

One minor downside was that it did not include pieces from his days at Givenchy. It’s not that I expected LVMH to offer help, and for Kering to accept help from LVMH, but it would have been a small triumph for all concerned if Givenchy pieces were included because it was not an unimportant chapter in McQueen’s life however unhappy he may have been in Paris.

Savage Beauty is based on the 2011 exhibition that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York staged. Those who have seen both think that V&A have done a superior job. I had not seen the Met show, but I can easily imagine that to be the case. Even when the Costume Institute at the Met was run by the late, indefatigable, talented and immensely knowledgeable Richard Martin, their shows usually fell a bit short in the way pieces were displayed even though the selection, grouping and sequence of the pieces were the stuff of supreme curatorship. V&A have done a superb job in displaying the pieces.

We can bemoan McQueen’s untimely death, but we can also celebrate his creative genius. V&A’s Savage Beauty does the latter beautifully and does justice to his genius.

Go see it.