Saturday, 11 July 2015

Savage Beauty at the V&A

Savage Beauty is a retrospective of the late designer Alexander McQueen's work, from his MA graduate collection through to the A/W 2010 collection he began before his suicide at the age of forty. It is a jaw-dropping, utterly beautiful sensory overload of an exhibition which dramatically captures and reflects the designer's own complex vision and inspirations; I left awed by his talent and desperately saddened by his loss.

The exhibition has been fabulously curated like one of McQueen's catwalk shows, with dramatic staging and serious theatrical flair. Works are shown by theme and inspiration rather than as a timeline, which highlights how central these influences were as well as their return in reworked form as his experience grew. 

McQueen was, in many ways, a true Romantic. It is vital here to distinguish this from romantic with a small 'r'; I'm not talking hearts and flowers and kittens in baskets, but the Romantics of the late eighteenth century onwards - nature as a force of creation and destruction, inspirational and inescapable, the nature of Keats's nightingale and Shelley's Frankenstein. 

Seeing McQueen's original creations up close is not only visually breathtaking but shows his genius in recreating a creative vision in intricate, delicate and precise construction. McQueen began his career as an apprentice tailor in Savile Row and even his earliest work is clearly craftsmanlike. 

The Cabinet of Curiosities is the heart of the exhibition, in every sense of the word. Inspired by the gentleman explorers' drawing rooms displaying exotic finds from their travels, this circular section is crammed floor to double-height ceiling with treasures. Stop and take a look at your fellow visitors, necks craned, fascinated and spellbound. On the way out, there is a stunning Kate Moss video installation that is so ethereally beautiful that you just stand transfixed.

So - go, wander, wonder, be amazed. This is an unmissable event. Oh, and if you join the V&A on the day, they refund the ticket price - meaning I got guest plus one membership, including free entry into exhibitions and access to the Members' room, for another forty pounds or so. You'd be mad not to.

Yours, dazzled,
Girl About Town xx