Well, dear readers I have at long last made the trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the McQueen retrospective Savage Beauty now up through July 31st. I must say, crowd control aside, it was captivating to say the very least. The rooms were set-up by themes and contrasted starkly with one another between sheer opulence and stark materials.
For months we have been bombarded with the show stoppers....the McQueen avant garde creations that really pushed the envelope. I too was guilty of that in my previous posts. But it was in some of the restrained galleries that one could have a quiet moment to take in a work and see the nuanced genius of the man. You could sense that while McQueen had a penchant for fantasy and the macabre he was at the very core a craftsman (trained as a tailor) and was well versed in the history of art. Don't get me wrong, I love his darker moods, flirting with fetish and the Gothic...who doesn't like a good Poe or Fonthill Abbey reference...but I digress.
In the first gallery, dedicated to McQueen's tailoring roots entitled The Romantic Mind, you are confronted by these re-invisioned Napoleonic jackets. The text provided made it crystal clear that it was his deep knowledge of construction that allowed him to later deconstruct and reinterpret forms and silhouettes. But it was in the Romantic Nationalism gallery that I was stopped dead in my tracks by this gown...
This Empire infused confection was a highlight of the Fall/Winter 2008 collection entitled The Girl Who Lived In The Tree. While McQueen is quoted as saying "I don't really get inspired [by specific women]" but more by "Iconic women" his references from this period in history are evident.
Madame Recamier by Francois Pascal Simon Gerard
Madame Grassini in the Role of Zaire by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun
Portrait of Madame de Stael by Anne-Louise Girodet de Roucy-Triosson
The Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Details of the ensemble from the Fall/Winter 2008 collection
It was definitely one of those moments where something modern can transport you in a flash to an age of Empires, Orientalism, conquest and romance. I could do fifty related posts on the exhibition as it is a veritable feast. While the exhibition catalogue is good it does not contain all the works in the show and cannot capture the lushness of the installation. We are sad to see McQueen go but he has left his mark with an astonishing fashion legacy.