May 4, 2011
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NY exhibit celebrates 'romantic' McQueen

May 4, 2011

May 3 - A year after he committed suicide, British fashion designer Alexander McQueen stars in a lavish New York retrospective celebrating his wildly inventive, but always romantic creations.

Alexander McQueen
Creations by Alexander McQueen currently exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum, NY

The Metropolitan Museum show opening Wednesday and running until July 31 drew a star-studded list of guests to a preview gala on Monday that saw rock stars, models and Hollywood hotshots rubbing shoulders.

All of them, including Colin Firth and Stella McCartney, paid tribute to the man widely seen as a fashion genius before he took his life.

Andrew Bolton, curator of the Met's Costume Institute exhibit, said "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" deserves its place among the museum's other treasures.

Alexander McQueen

"With his fascination with grotesque, gruesome, sublime, Alexander McQueen was no less than a great artist, and he is at home at the Metropolitan Museum," Bolton told journalists.

Sarah Burton, the artistic director at the Alexander McQueen fashion house that made Kate Middleton's dress for her wedding to Prince William last week, said the deceased founder was "just a true genius."

McQueen died February 11 last year at the age of 40, after 19 years of a career that constantly amazed the fashion world with an extravagance that the museum exhibit sought to recall.

Alexander McQueen

Some of his choice words intersperse actual exhibits, including about 100 mannequins wearing his clothing and almost as many accessories, all set against music resembling a howling wind.

"You've got to know the rules to break them. That's why I'm here, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition," one of his quotations read.

Alongside models of his signature low-slung trousers, one reads the explanation: "With bumsters I want to elongate the body. Not just show the bum. To me that part of the body that's the most erotic part of anyone's body, man or woman."

Another feature of McQueen's imagination recalled here is his interest in the macabre, such as a jacket titled "Jack the Ripper stalks his victims" that he presented in 1992 in London.

"It is important to look at death because death is part of life. It is a sad thing, melancholic but romantic at the same time. Everything has to end," McQueen wrote.

Another of his revelations is his like for accessories with a "sadomasochistic aspect." He showed this in his hats, which include the use of porcupine quills painted black and sprayed with silver and black leather.

McQueen could use any material, whether it was shells or even crocodile heads turned into shoulder pads.

Bolton said however that McQueen was above all a romantic. The exhibition is organized into the "Romantic mind," "Romantic Gothic," "Romantic Nationalism," "Romantic Exoticism," "Romantic Primitivism," and "Romantic Naturalism."

"He was a true romantic in the Byronic sense of the word. He channeled the sublime," Bolton said.

McQueen agreed: "I am a romantic schizophrenic."

by Paola Messana

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