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Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Sunday 29th March, 2020

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This spring the V&A will present the only major retrospective in Europe of the work of the visionary fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen.

Originated by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Savage Beauty will be edited and expanded for the V&A’s large exhibition galleries.

Each section will capture the essence of the provocative, dramatic and extravagant catwalk presentations that McQueen became renowned for, combining storytelling, theatrical performance, music and film. For example the spectacular moment where Kate Moss appeared in a gown of rippling organza as a holographic 3D image will be shown near life size as it was for the finale of the Widows of Culloden (A/W 2006-7) catwalk show.

Another key moment of the exhibition that has been expanded at the V&A is the Cabinet of Curiosities, which will showcase designs produced by McQueen in collaboration with fellow creatives such as the jeweller Shaun Leane and milliner Philip Treacy. Presented in a double-height gallery, interspersed with film footage of nearly all of McQueen’s catwalk shows, it will display around 40 additional objects that have not previously been seen together. These include a sequin top overprinted with a haunting image of the Russian Romanov children (Joan, A/W 1998-9); an embellished matador’s jacket (The Dance of the Twisted Bull, S/S 2002) and a black horned headpiece designed for Givenchy (S/S 1997).

The thematic presentation of the exhibition will interrogate ideas and concepts central to McQueen’s work, including: subversive tailoring; Gothic sensibility and the interplay between darkness and light; primitivism and the animal world; heritage and ancestry; nature and the natural world; and technology and handcraft.

The V&A’s presentation of the exhibition is being made possible with the cooperation of Alexander McQueen and will be in partnership with Swarovski. The crystal house and Alexander McQueen share a rich history, beginning in the 1990s when Isabella Blow introduced the young maverick designer to Nadja Swarovski. Swarovski went on to support McQueen’s S/S 1999 collection, which was to be the first of numerous collaborations, including the creation, alongside Tord Boontje, of the V&A’s Grand Entrance crystal Christmas tree in 2003; and the dramatic Swarovski gemstone-encrusted Bird’s Nest and Bird Skull headdresses for his A/W 2006 collection.

One of the most innovative designers of his generation, McQueen was celebrated for his extraordinary creative talent. He combined a profound grasp of tailoring and eclectic range of influences with a relentless pursuit to challenge the boundaries of art and fashion, blending the latest technology with traditional craftsmanship.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty; Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL; Admission £16 (concessions available). V&A Members go free. 14 March – 19 July 2015. I: www.vam.ac.uk/savagebeauty

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