Friday, June 24, 2011

Falcon women and the falconer McQueen

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Now, it's a sure bet that the Metropolitan Museum of Art does not need my endorsement of its blockbuster exhibition of Alexander McQueen's art. If you've already gone and spent too long trying to see past clumps of people who have stopped dead cold in front of one or another of the late fashion designer's creations, you probably would laugh at the idea of my encouraging more people to get in there by July 31. But there it is. I'm encouraging.

In fact, I'm so into encouraging that when I left the exhibit this morning, I could barely restrain myself from running up to people on the lines stretching down the Met's corridors to tell them that, yes, it's worth the wait, worth any sacrifice you might make, and even worth that little snarl you might have to emit to get a few folks to move their bodies away from a certain plaque so that you can, for god's sake, finally read it.

Just go. Be snarly, if you need to be. And that snarl might even work quite well if you're a woman. McQueen wanted women to be powerfully scary. He would approve.

Photographs and illustrations and videos (see here and here) won't do the job. You must stand in the presence. You must face these clothes-as-icons and observe the lush materials, the searing severity, the impeccable details, the daring theatricality, the overarching boldness of conception and execution. And the Met has set it all up with accompaniment that makes the whole work like an elaborate musical jewel box--a rather frightening musical jewel box but, nonetheless, an exceptionally thrilling one.

It's profoundly poignant that this genius is gone--and by his own hand. A troubled and brief life, but what an accomplished one!

Note: If you are a Met member, you don't have to stand on line. Show your card at the exhibit entrance, and sally forth. However, you'll most likely find that your sallying will not take you very far before you hit a wall of people. That's what happened to me, even though I arrived, card in hand, first thing in the morning on a weekday!

Don't fret. Eventually, the clump of your fellow gawkers will loosen up as you press further into the exhibit.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art
5th Avenue at 82nd Street, Manhattan
(directions, admission and other visitor information)

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