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Insightful quotations and snippets of information about his life, accompanied the avant-guard creations of the late Alexander McQueen in the recent Savage Beauty exhibition. Held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the exhibition showcased his journey from an apprentice on Saville Row to a designer, striving for an iconic legacy.
McQueen had a profound appreciation of beauty, known for his romantically dark perspective and ability to push the boundaries and challenge convention. In keeping with the theme behind each collection and runway show, the exhibition had been designed to powerfully provoke emotions, enhancing the feeling McQueen intended his creations to convey, whether that be horror, awe or shock. It was overwhelming actually and caught me completely off guard. Although some people found his work to be aggressive, McQueen believed it was actually a representation of the darker side of his personality.
These were my favourites of the exhibits;
Savage Mind
From the very beginning it’s clear that historicism played a major factor in McQueen’s work. Victorian elements appear many times throughout the collections but there are more subtle associations too. Opening with his early pieces, which incorporated labels containing a lock of his own hair, inspired by early nineteenth century jewellery.
Victorian Gothic
His second collection for Givenchy Eclect Dissect, told the story of a fictional surgeon who dismembered women in his laboratory and reassembled them as macabre hybrids, using bird parts such as skulls and feathers. The mannequins stood on raised platforms, which only enhanced their aura of horror and yet there was still something incredibly romantic about them.
Romantic Primitivism
A collection of African tribe inspired pieces are displayed within a cave made entirely of bones and skulls and reminded me of Paris’ Catacombs.
Cabinet of Curiosities
I could have sat in here all day and still not noticed every detail. The room showcased harrowing and fetishistic accessories and catwalk one-offs rotating in mirrored display cabinets, interspersed with screens showing some of his most infamous runway clips.
Pepper’s Ghost
An illusion technique using smoke and mirrors, that dates back to 16th century and tricked viewers into believing they were seeing ghosts. McQueen used this in his Widows of Culloden show, where Kate Moss is beautifully conjured up, before disappearing again.
Romantic Naturalism
The most beautiful couture dresses contained in glass pedestals were inspired by nature as art. It’s without doubt the prettiest room of the exhibition. One dress has been made entirely of pastel hue silk and real roses. McQueen later explained that flowers were used because they would inevitably rot and die, reiterating the dark romanticist undertones in his work.
(Something to note: Unfortunately the exhibit has now closed)

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‘You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.’
– Alexander McQueen

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‘I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things.’
– Alexander McQueen

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There has to be a sinister aspect, whether it’s melancholy or sadomasochist. I think everyone has a deep sexuality, and sometimes it’s good to use a little of it – and sometimes a lot of it – like a masquerade.’
– Alexander McQueen

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‘Animals fascinate me because you can find a force, an energy, a fear that also exists in sex.’
– Alexander McQueen

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‘The reason I’m patriotic about Scotland is because I think it’s been dealt a really hard hand. It’s marketed the world over as haggis and bagpipes. But no one ever puts anything back into it.’
– Alexander McQueen

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‘As a place for inspiration Britain is the best in the world. You’re inspired by the anarchy in the country.’
– Alexander McQueen

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‘There is no way back for me. I’m going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible.’
– Alexander McQueen

3 replies on “Exhibition: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty

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