While I was no fan of the catalogue, I was wowed by the coup de théâtre that is Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum (May 4-July 31). The installation was more inventive and inspired than almost anything I’ve seen pulled off at this venerable institution. (You’ll get some sense of that by viewing the CultureGrrl Video, below.)
Curator Andrew Bolton’s wall text was illuminating; the object labels weren’t. I wished for more in-depth information about the individual pieces, provided neither in the show nor in the catalogue.
Both the show and catalogue soft-pedal the perverse, transgressive sensibility that suffuses the galleries. The word “Romantic” keeps resonating on the walls and in the catalogue, but even the 19th-century Romantic concept of the dread-provoking “sublime” doesn’t capture the dark, macabre quality of what we see and experience here. It’s more about fetishism and sadomasochism than about the dreamy haze of reverie (except for a gauzy hologram, which you’ll see in my video, of model Kate Moss dancing to poignantly elegiac music, at the end of which her image dissolves into abstraction and then nothingness). Edgar Allan Poe is, at one point, fittingly invoked: The show’s “Savage Beauty” owes more to Poe than to Wordsworth.
This post first appeared in a longer version on CultureGrrl.