"I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things." The Savage Beauty retrospective of Alexander McQueen's work at the V&A Museum is a continual juxtaposition of beautiful and grotesque, of delicate and dominance. There's a lot of talk of emotional intensity, and it's definitely quite a spectacle.
I love the V&A fashion exhibitions (though they tend to be a tad crowded, and booked months in advance), but the theatrical presentations are as mesmerising as the items and their creators. The dimly lit rooms of Savage Beauty add a gothic air that's perfect for this designer, and the classical soundtrack is stirring as you walk round. Now and then you hear the late McQueen's own voice and it's quite eerie.
Highlights of the show are a reconstruction of Pepper's Ghost (Kate Moss projected in ghostly hologram form), and the Cabinet of Curiosities, a vast room of stunning headdresses, shoes, and garments, including the dress in which Shalom Harlow was famously spray painted by robots during a 1999 catwalk show (above). It's a fitting spectacle for a designer renowned for his fashion shows which featured giant chess boards, fire, rain, and other amazing sets and effects.
McQueen's designs are striking, his background in theatrical costume making is evident. He plays with shape and texture, giving each part of the retrospective a unique aesthetic. Themes of religion, nature, and identity are explored; you're left feeling amazed at how someone so young could have created such an extensive and brilliant body of work.
Savage Beauty is on until August and includes a programme of talks and events. Make sure you book a ticket and prepare to be moved by fashion, music and theatre.
Have you seen Savage Beauty? Are you planning to? Let me know your thoughts in the comments x