Written by Pheobe Hollond, Account Manager at Now.
I very recently went to ‘Savage Beauty’ at the V&A, an exhibition that explored the works and life of the great late Alexander McQueen. Funnily enough, I had previously visited this exhibition at the Met in New York about 6 years ago, which actually made the V&A even more of an incredible experience because it was unbelievably interesting to compare and contrast them.
My first impression of the V&A versus the Met was not good. I thought to myself, “Here we go again, another classic case of the New Yorkers trumping us in creativity with our own god damn designers.”
The initial room in the V&A is white and bright with loud music like a trashy ‘Made in Chelsea’ nightclub and the pieces are just not that exciting. Whereas in the Met my first impression was of complete awe; you entered this dark, almost sadistic like room full of the most stunning and striking pieces. One of the elements that stayed with me from the Met was Alexander McQueen’s quotes. He was a beautiful and fascinating writer and the Met really picked up on this, they had his quotes ping out in sexy bright neon lights on the walls, whereas in the V&A you weren’t drawn to them at all, and they felt a bit like a lazy afterthought.
However, as I passed through this first room at the V&A and reached the second, I was practically eating my words and thoughts. The second room was completely different, obviously because of the clothes but more overtly the design. I had moved from a white cube with quite formal wear to a room that look like a hall from a stately home. The room had rusted mirrors with opulent gold edges and cornicing from floor to ceiling. The clothes were his study of dominant and powerful woman depicting the sadomasochism between the different sexes, he was also interested in the study of women being part creature, which lead to some dark and violent pieces.
The third room lead nicely on from second as it continued with this sumptuous and lavish look and feel. However, the story was a completely different one; this was about his love of Scotland and hated towards what the Brits had done. His pieces were inspired by his Scottish heritage, it is rumoured that when he designed Prince Charles’s suits he stitched, ‘Fuck the monarchy’ on the inside of the lining because he was so against the monarchy.
After walking through what feels like a large hall in a Scottish stately home you enter a different type of hall; one made of bones and skulls. McQueen was deeply fascinated by tribes and a lot of his inspiration came from this.
My second favourite room was called the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ which was filled with some of his best pieces, and films of his catwalks that made him the famous designer he became.
However, my favourite room has to be ‘Plato’s Atlantis’, this was the last room of the exhibition and actually the last exhibition he crafted before his suicide. ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ predicted a future in which the ice caps would melt, the waters would rise and life on earth would have to evolve in order to live beneath the sea once more or perish.
‘Humanity would go back to the place from whence it came.’ – Alexander McQueen
This final room presented a narrative that centred not on the evolution of humankind but on its devolution. Along with his final pieces, he created a disturbing film that sat behind his work, which saw a model naked in a bath metamorphose into a sea creature.
All in all, visually the most exciting exhibition I have seen in a long while, not only because of his pieces but because of the genius behind the set up of each room. I love that each room was different and reflected the work that was in there.
The Met had the same design throughout, so go on British design, we win!