McQueen at the Museum

Several New York City museums are showing off Alexander McQueen's designs in various current shows

Written by Peter Bowen

In McQueen, filmmakers Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui present many of Alexander McQueen's stunning fashion shows to map out the vast terrain of his creative imagination. Many New Yorkers who never had the opportunity of attending one of these breathtaking spectacles got to see what all the excitement was about when the exhibition "Savage Beauty" opened at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011. Curated by Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda, "Savage Beauty" became a cultural phenomenon, breaking attendance records with people waiting up to four hours to catch a glimpse of McQueen's work. This year, New Yorkers will get another chance to see McQueen's designs with two very different shows showcasing different aspects of his talent.


Heavenly Bodies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art | Fifth Avenue

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Heavenly Bodies"-curated by "Savage Beauty's" curator Andrew Bolton-connects high fashion to a higher power in its presentation of the ways in which the Catholic imagination is woven into modern style. In the Met's Medieval Sculpture Hall, one can find several of McQueen's designs. While McQueen was not Catholic, he had a keen eye for the ways power manifested itself in ritual garb. The black dress inspired by priest cassock, which he created for Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Haute Couture collection in 1999, turns the table on traditionally gendered holy wear. Also on the floor one can find McQueen's 1999 "Ensemble," a lyrical set of wings made of birch plywood and ivory leather. Björk previously wore the wings at McQueen's memorial service where she sang Billie Holiday's "Gloomy Sunday" as a tribute to her late friend and collaborator.


Detail from Hans Memling's <em>The Last Judgment</em>

Heavenly Bodies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art | Cloisters

At the Cloisters, the Late Gothic Hall features several of McQueen's designs that explore religious themes. Set in a room surrounded by 15 th century German altarpieces, McQueen's digitally printed dresses reflect his deep fascination with the art and sensibility of that period. McQueen told The Guardian in 2004 that he connected to this time period which had his "favorite part of art. Because of the colors, because of the sympathetic way they approached life." A green wool coat/dress from his 1997 collection "It's a Jungle Out There" sports a detail from Hans Memling's 15thcentury triptych The Last Judgment. The painting detail, which shows St. Michael weighing souls on Judgment day, is imprinted on the lower panel of the dress. Years later, he returned to this theme in a series of outfits he created for his 2010 posthumously titled "Angels and Demons" collection. In one dress, McQueen has digitally printed on silk and fine leather the Altarpiece of the Patron Saints of Cologne by the 15th century German painter Stefan Lochner. Another outfit features a silk jacquard embroidered with gold sequins containing images from three of Hieronymus Bosch's most famous works-The Temptation of Saint Anthony, The Last Judgment, and The Garden of Earthly Delights.


David Bowie Is at the Brooklyn Museum

Just closing, Brooklyn Museum's David Bowie Is gathers together artifacts from all aspects of the legendary singer's life, including his many character-changing costumes. Among these is the famed Union Jack frockcoat that McQueen designed for the performer. In 1996, a still relatively unknown McQueen received a call out of the blue from David Bowie. Attentive to contemporary fashion, Bowie had admired McQueen's talent from afar. Needing a new outfit for his upcoming tour, he reached out to McQueen. After creating an outfit of pants stained with paint and a dark wool jacket, McQueen added a large frockcoat with a huge Union Jack flag. Bowie was so taken with the outfit he made it the central image of his new album EART HL I NG








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