Jun 24, 2011

Alexander McQueen With Lucy

 I finally got to see the Alexander McQueen "Savage Beauty" exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday. I was a little bummed about having to drag my three-year-old along with me to the museum because I knew the exhibit would be crowded and I would have to carry all 32 pounds of her around the entire time lest she get trampled by some stilletto-wearing McQueen super-fan.  Indeed I would recommend seeing this exhibit without your kid, so you can read all the text, watch all the videos, and listen to the audio tour. Plus it's scary. So there's that.

But the fun thing about taking my kid to see Savage Beauty is the associative commentary from an almost-three-year-old. You may not be so lucky to be in New York with a toddler who can provide you with this alternative tour experience, so I'll share with you as best I can my kid's critique of Savage Beauty.

(You're not allowed to take any pictures in the exhibit, so these photos are all pillaged from the Met's website).

After standing in line for a full 30 minutes, this is the first gown you see upon entering the exhibit:

Made from black and red ostrich feathers and medical slides (the kind you may remember putting under a microscope in high school) painted red, it's stunning and really had an impact on my kid:
Can we go home now?

But there's no turning back after waiting in line for 30 minutes, so we persisted. Lucy was less impressed by the first room, The Romantic Mind, which showcases some of his early work, including his graduate collection for the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Among the tailored jackets and dresses, are his "bumster" pants (circa 1993), ultra-low-rise trousers designed to elongate the body — and maybe show a little buttcrack. Again, Lucy was unimpressed. After all, her pants often look like this:

About 12 years after these pants were introduced, we'd all be sick of seeing every hootchie's G-string hanging out of the top of her low-rise jeans. But at the time, they were so innovative. If you're doubting just how innovative they were, here's a close approximation of what you were probably wearing in 1993:
McQueen's vision gets considerably darker in the next room, titled "Romantic Gothic." Actually, it gets downright scary (and more than a little S&M-ish). To illustrate that fact, the curators have included a looped soundtrack of wind punctuated by a high-pitch howling. We were trying to squeeze ourselves into the queue of people getting a closer look when Lucy said: "It sounds like a scary monster is COMING TO EAT US!" And then she looked at this piece here and said "I think that's the monster!"
The following room, The Cabinet of Curiosities, would be the one I'd linger in longest if I didn't have a kid with me. Lined with hats and accesories made from unlikely materials (including impressive wings made from balsa wood), this room featured video installations of his runway shows, which were more like performance art than fashion — disturbing performance art featuring accessories that almost all resemble shackles in some way. Not literally shackles, but the effect is the same when nearly all the models look enslaved in some way. Like this:

After that, things got a little lighter and costumey in a good way — from his tartan creations (at the time controversial because they were introduced in a bloody show called Highland Rape) to Edwardian fantasy frocks all red velvet and tulle. 

And if you like the "unconventional materials" challenges on Project Runway, then you will love the middle section of the McQueen exhibit. This one, made entirely of pheasant feathers, was my favourite:

This one was Lucy's favourite. In her words: "Why does that lady have a cake on her head? (Beat)  I like that."

And then, in response to the following: "Hey mom, look! Ladies don't play football! Only mens do!" followed by hysterical laughter.

And then something about the gowns in the following room (clustered together under the theme of "Romantic Primatism") compelled Lucy to say, "When I grow up, I want to be a dinosaur," which was the ultimate highlight of my day.

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