Monday, May 16, 2011

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (exhibition catalogue)

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. May 4, 2011–July 31, 2011. Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, 2nd floor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty [exhibition catalogue]. Andrew Bolton, with contributions by Susannah Frankel and Tim Blanks. Photography by Sølve Sundsbø. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011.

English Wikipedia: "Lee Alexander McQueen, CBE (17 March 1969 – 11 February 2010) was a British fashion designer and couturier best known for his in-depth knowledge of bespoke British tailoring, his tendency to juxtapose female strength and sensuality with fragility in his collections, as well as the emotional power and raw energy of his provocative fashion shows. He is also known for having worked as chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and for founding his own label under the name Alexander McQueen. His achievements in fashion earned him four British Designer of the Year awards (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003), as well as the CFDA's International Designer of the Year award in 2003."

Laila came back from New York and brought this exhibition catalogue. The cover already is a moving image, a hologram close-up of Alexander McQueen's face transforming into a skull.

Reading the catalogue, cinematic associations emerge.

Federico Fellini's Roma, the ecclesiastical fashion show, not the modern innovations ("Short Cut to Paradise", Las Vegas style neon-lit habits), but the macabre visions with mummified corpses and skeletons.

Tim Burton.

Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, the lavish parties where joy has left the building.

Edgar Allan Poe's oft-filmed The Masque of the Red Death, the grand banquet in the seven rooms of Prince Prospero's abbey. After the uninvited guest's visit no one is left alive.

The Black Swan: Darren Aronofsky has perhaps been inspired by Alexander McQueen.

Reading further, it comes as no surprise that Tim Burton's work is revealed to be one of McQueen's inspirations. On the last spread there is even a list of McQueen's ten favourite films: Barry Lyndon; Death in Venice / Morte a Venezia; They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; Lady Sings the Blues; La Reine Margot [1994]; Paris, Texas; Picnic at Hanging Rock; Coppola's Dracula; The Hunger; and The Abyss.

Alfred Hitchcock was central to McQueen, and he liked to listen to Philip Glass's music from The Hours or Michael Nyman's music from The Piano. Explicit cinematic links in McQueen's collections include The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock), Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (the song title is from Mary Poppins but the style refers to Tim Burton), Sarabande (Barry Lyndon), and Plato's Atlantis (The Abyss). "The Color scheme of La Reine Margot was a constant", says Sarah Burton. Laila told that a memorable feature in the exhibition is a hologram of Kate Moss defying gravity. The accompanying music that still lingered in her mind was the theme from Schindler's List.

Collections displayed in the exhibition catalogue include The Dance of the Twisted Bull, Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims, Nihilism, No. 13, Plato's Atlantis, Dante, Joan, La Poupée, It's a Jungle Out There, Highland Rape, Banshee, What a Merry-Go-Round, Eclect Dissect, The Horn of Plenty, VOSS, Widows of Culloden, The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, Scanners, It's Only a Game, Eshu, Irere, Sarabande, The Hunger, Eye, La Dame bleue, Joan; In Memory of Elizabeth How, Salem 1692; Pantheon ad lucem, The Search for the Golden Fleece.

P.S. 17 May 2011. The cover of the book may be an homage to Psycho. This occurred to me reading Robin Wood's first film article (on Psycho). Towards the end of Psycho we see the famous image of Norman Bates superimposed with his mother's mummified skull. - Alexander McQueen, who said he "went straight from his mother's womb to the gay parade", committed suicide nine days after the death of his mother, a day before his mother's funeral.

P.S. 18 May 2011. Laila told that the text accompanying the Kate Moss hologram was to the effect that it's about taking us to a journey with no return. I found the video online: Kate Moss is an angel who finally disappears in the galaxy, and the video ends with a big bang in infinity.  The video and Kate's dance evoke a favourite theme of the first films by Edison, Skladanowsky, and Lumière, the Serpentine Dance created by Loïe Fuller.- Kaj Kalin dubs the Kate Moss video a "holo(caust)gram".

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