Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Presents Alexander McQueen Retrospective

The spring 2011 exhibition organized by The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, it was announced by the Museum today.

The exhibition, on view from May 4 through July 31, 2011 (preceded on May 2 by The Costume Institute Gala Benefit), will celebrate the late Mr. McQueen’s extraordinary contributions to fashion. From his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection in 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010, Mr. McQueen challenged and expanded our understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity.

The exhibition is made possible by Alexander McQueen™.

Additional support is provided in partnership by American Express and Condé Nast.

“Alexander McQueen’s iconic designs constitute the work of an artist whose medium of expression was fashion,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “This landmark exhibition continues the Museum’s tradition of celebrating designers who changed the course of history and culture by creating new possibilities.”

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Museum’s Costume Institute Benefit will take place on Monday, May 2, 2011. The evening’s Honorary Chairs are François-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek, and the Co-Chairs will be Colin Firth, Stella McCartney, and Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue. This fundraising event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

“Alexander McQueen was best known for his astonishing and extravagant runway presentations, which were given dramatic scenarios and narrative structures that suggested avant-garde installation and performance art,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator of The Costume Institute. “His fashions were an outlet for his emotions, an expression of the deepest, often darkest, aspects of his imagination. He was a true romantic in the Byronic sense of the word — he channeled the sublime.”

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition, in the Metropolitan Museum’s second-floor Cantor Galleries, will feature approximately 100 examples of Mr. McQueen’s work from his prolific 19- year career. Drawn primarily from the Alexander McQueen Archive in London, with some pieces from the Givenchy Archive in Paris as well as private collections, signature designs including the bumster trouser, the kimono jacket, and the Origami frock coat will be on view. McQueen’s fashions often referenced the exaggerated silhouettes of the 1860s, 1880s, 1890s, and 1950s, but his technical ingenuity always imbued his designs with an innovative sensibility that kept him at the vanguard.

Galleries will showcase recurring themes and concepts in McQueen’s work beginning with “The Savage Mind” which will examine his subversion of traditional tailoring and dressmaking practices through displacement and deconstruction. “Romantic Gothic” will highlight McQueen’s narrative approach to fashion and illuminate his engagement with Romantic literary traditions such as death, decay, and darkness. It will also reveal the main characters of his collections, including femme fatales and anti-heroes such as pirates and highwaymen. “Romantic Nationalism” will look at McQueen’s fascination with the distant past, while “Romantic Exoticism” will examine his focus on distant places. “Romantic Primitivism” will explore McQueen’s engagement with the ideal of the “noble savage.”

Five of McQueen’s landmark collections that explore his engagement with the Romantic sublime and the dialectics of beauty and horror will be interspersed among the galleries — Dante (autumn/winter 1996-97), Number 13 (spring/summer 1999), Voss (spring/summer 2001), Irere (spring/summer 2003), and Plato’s Atlantis (spring/summer 2010). “Cabinet of Curiosities” will include various atavistic and fetishized objects often produced with milliner Philip Treacy and jeweler Shaun Leane, longtime collaborators of McQueen’s. A separate screening room will display videos of McQueen’s renowned runway presentations.

Credits and Related Programs
The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator, with the support of Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, both of the Met’s Costume Institute. Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett, the production designers for Alexander McQueen’s fashion shows, will serve as the exhibition’s creative consultants.

The design for the 2011 Costume Institute Gala Benefit will be created by Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett with Raul Avila.

A book, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton with Harold Koda, will accompany the exhibition. It will feature a thematic overview of Mr. McQueen’s career as well as an interview with Sarah Burton, creative director for Alexander McQueen, who worked closely with the designer for 14 years. The book will be printed in a special edition with 250 illustrations and will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed worldwide by Yale University Press.

Gala Benefit May 2, 2011, with Honorary Chairs François-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek, and Co-Chairs Colin Firth, Stella McCartney, and Anna Wintour
Exhibition dates: May 4–July 31, 2011
Exhibition location: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, second floor
Press preview: Monday, May 2, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Alexander McQueen™ is a trademark of Autumnpaper Limited.

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