The World Of Alexander McQueen Explored At V&A And Tate Britain
London's cultural scene's abuzz, as it's taken over by the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The V&A today launched a major retrospective about McQueen's visionary creations — and other galleries in the capital are following suit. All this McQueen fever has prompted us to write not one but two reviews — covering the V&A show and another photographic exhibition at Tate Britain.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty @ V&A Museum
Londonist Rating: ★★★★★
Doubtless, this is the best fashion exhibition we've seen at the V&A. We believe this time the museum has truly taken things to a new level: of course, this wouldn't be possible without the revolutionary work of McQueen himself.
Shown for the first time in Europe, Savage Beauty has been extended and readapted since it was first exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York back in 2011 (where it became one of the top 10 most visited exhibitions at the museum ever).
Starting with McQueen's first collections, the outfits on display witness his unique tailoring skills, which he maintained throughout the course of his entire career. Walking through the following sections, we remained wordless every time we entered a new room. Aside from the spectacular creations on display, we were impressed by the attention put into the display background, carefully assembled with music and lights.
We were particularly struck by the Cabinet of Curiosities section, presented in a double-height all-black gallery. This setting showcases the most cutting-edge designs of McQueen, alongside video footage of his catwalk shows. Here, we found the notorious Armadillo Shoes alongside improbable headgear and dresses made entirely of feathers.
McQueen created his fashion using multiple sources of inspiration: from Primitivism to the animal world, and from the Victorian era to Romanticism, we find in all his work a perfect combination of technology and real craftsmanship. It's hard to recognise a main theme or feature in his work, as McQueen's collections were all a one-off creation each time.
London has been a vital source of inspiration for McQueen, and we're grateful to the capital to have inspired such a timeless and visionary talent. As he said himself:
"London's where I was brought up. It's where my art is and where I get my inspiration."
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is on 14 March-2 August at the V&A, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL. Tickets are timed and cost £17.60 for adults and £16.50 for concessions. We highly recommend you book in advance.
Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen Work In Progress @ Tate Britain
Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
Delving deeper into McQueen's world, Tate Britain is displaying a photographic exhibition to the designer's 2009 A/W fashion collection The Horn of Plenty through the work of Nick Waplington. Waplington documented the whole process of creating a fashion collection, from its inception to the final catwalk in Paris.
From the very first room, photos of ethereal models are juxtaposed with images of garbage and landfill areas. That's because the main concept of McQueen's fashion collection was recycling: in the process of creation he recycled his own ideas, previous outfits and even people he worked with in the past. For this one collection, McQueen felt the urge to produce a concrete legacy of his work. In his words:
"I'm always interested in depicting the age that we live in and this collection depicts the silliness of our age. I think people will look back at it and know that we were living through a recession when I designed it, that we got to this point because of rampant, indiscriminate consumption."
Waplington manages to express McQueen's work through eye-catching photographs with unusual perspective and focus. The way he does it is raw and direct, and showcases a different side of the fashion world. Yet despite the quality of the photographs, we think the exhibition is a bit overpriced for what's on display.
Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen is on until 17 May at Tate Britain, . Tickets are £16 for adults and £14 for concessions, advanced booking is suggested.
We also suggest Inferno: Alexander McQueen exhibition at Gallery at Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0LA. On from 20 March-3 May, entry is free.
For more art to see in London, visit our top 10 art openings for March.
Last Updated 12 March 2015