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Issues of the Day Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen Exhibition

(New York City) – When I told my sister-in-law, Rebeca, that  I intended to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art during a brief visit to New York,  she told me that a new exhibition had been recommended to her. "You know that famous fashion designer who committed suicide last year" she said and I, having vaguely remembered something I had read, nodded that I had. His friends and admirers had mounted an exhibition, Rebeca related, and people had told her it must be seen.

As someone for whom the entire world of fashion had long borne the stigma of materialistic, bourgeois culture, I would normally have dismissed a visit out of hand. But in the spirit of open-mindedness about things and in that spirit after entering the cavernous MET (I could wander through its halls and rooms for days) and made my way to the exhibition area where "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" was being displayed.

There, I joined a throng of slack-jawed visitors who gently pushed through the dark and haunting display area. I found myself transported into a world at once sad, beautiful and profound.  

In the darkness, I began  scrambling for scraps of lights: I needed to take notes. "His forms," I wrote, "frames the female body in garb that clings to it as if some ethereal cosmic wind is intent on casting it away.  The spartan landscape, existentially bereft and devoid of all spirit is lonely and cruel and timeless. It is the backdrop against which all human life activity takes place and people, masked and solitary, are orphaned. Each individual is woefully alone. Each, however, constitutes a wondrous, glory moment defying the cosmic wind.

 "His forms," I noted, "seem to assert themselves mindless solitude.  They seem devoid of thought, self-centered, impulsive but  ennobled by their plights. The latter, which even if common to others, is always endured alone."

McQueen, who took his life at the age of 41, was an adherent of Romanticism.  The MET exhibition is accordingly divided by sub-themes:  The Romantic Mind, Romantic Gothic and Cabinet of Curiosities, Romantic Nationalism (McQueen was a Scottish nationalist), Romantic Exoticism, Romantic Primitivism and Romantic Naturalism.  Enlightening for me was McQueen's view that fashion design was, for him, fundamentally an artistic medium: his means of expression. I had never thought of the fashion world in that way.  And while McQueen apparently did, my concern is that other stylists may not be as profound as he was and do not regard their occupation in the same way that he did.

After existing the Savage Beauty, I passed through the MET's adjacent collection of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. There, in room 819 on the second floor I found another Monet entitled  "Morning on the Seine, near Giverny," a second in the series of works by that name and a sister work to the one I had seen a few days earlier at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (see below), the pearl of in the eye of Lilah Kedem, the central character in Rise to whom I refer to in my previous post.

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved