Savage Beauty was exhibited in the Victoria and Albert museum from the 4th of March until the 2nd of August. (Victoria and Albert Museum 2015) It was not only the first and largest retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s latest work, but also V&A’s most successful special exhibition, which broke their visitor record by selling 480 000 tickets during the 21-week exhibition. (Victoria and Albert Museum 2015; Vogue 2015)
The concept of the retrospective started in 2011, one year after the death of the designer. It was first exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and has since become the most successful Fashion exhibition of all time. (Vogue 2015)
The exhibition included approximately 100 ensembles and almost as many accessories, ranging from his 1992 graduate collection to his unfinished 2010 collection. (Steele 2013; Victoria and Albert Museum 2015) London was the city where he grew up. McQueen left school at the young age of fifteen to work as a tailor’s apprentice. In 1990 he joined the MA fashion course, where he learned how to be a fashion designer. (Victoria and Albert Museum 2015)
The presentation of his work gave an insight into the designer’s high craftsmanship. (Steele 2013) His innovative cutting and construction methods were neat and precise, but also violent and aggressive. (Steele 2013; Victoria and Albert Museum 2015) These shaped sublime creations that the fashion world had never seen before. Such silhouettes and forms remained a key concept in his collections throughout his career. Most importantly however, is the historicism of McQueen’s collections. (Victoria and Albert Museum 2015) His works draw inspiration from nature and are connected to Romanticism. (Steele 2013; Victoria and Albert Museum 2015) This is represented in creations, such as the flower-covered dress from Sarabande (2007). (Steele 2013)
Yet he also sourced great inspiration from London’s history, such as the Victorian Gothic of the nineteenth century. (Victoria and Albert Museum 2015) McQueen’s work is beautiful and romantic, but at the same time cruel and melancholic. (Coke 2015) “I want people to be afraid of the women I dress,” said the designer. (Coke 2015, p. 1)
Whether his creations are either romantic or gothic, McQueen created a paradoxical relationship between the two, which made his collections original and unique. (Coke 2015; Victoria and Albert Museum 2015)
Coke, R 2015, ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty review – superficially magnificent’, The Guardian, 15 March, viewed 23 August 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/mar/15/alexander-mcqueen-savage-beauty-v-and-a-review-observer-awe-and-unease>.
Steele, V. 2013, ‘Exhibition Review: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’, Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, vol. 17, no. 5, pp. 419-430, viewed 23 August 2015, <http://www-tandfonline-com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.2752/175174113X13673474643129>.
Victoria and Albert Museum 2015, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-alexander-mcqueen-savage-beauty/about-the-exhibition/>.
Vogue 2015, ‘Alexander McQueen-Ausstellung “Savage Beauty” bricht Besucherrekord des V&A’, 5 August, viewed 23 August 2015, <http://www.vogue.de/people-kultur/people-news/event-alexander-mcqueen-ausstellung-savage-beauty-bricht-besucherrekord-des-v-a>.