“You find beauty in the ugliest places,” maverick fashion designer Alexander McQueen assured jeweler Shaun Leane. Modern jewelry does not always aim to flatter. Some of the most spectacular examples assert mastery over the female body. This is jewelry on the edge; designed to push the limits of glamour, courting danger and even pain.
The Yashmak is a veil concealing all of the face except the eyes, which is worn by some Muslim women in public. This metal Yashmak is part of a collection of jewelry that was designed for Alexander McQueen by Leane, who was not only a collaborator of McQueen’s, buts also a good friend.
Considered to be one of the top twenty most spectacular pieces in McQueen’s oeuvre, the Yashmak is created from aluminum plates cast from molds. The plates are linked by chains and inset at the center with red, Cabochon Swarovski crystals. Designed for McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2000 collection, which initially explored the clashing of Middle Eastern and Western cultures, the Yashmak acted as a symbol of Middle Eastern dress.
Photographed as Part of Jewelry: The Body Transformed, on Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC from November 12th, 2018 Through February 24th, 2019.
Alexander McQueen collaborated with the jeweler Shaun Leane to create this silver Crown of Thorns Headpiece (1996 – 97) formed from three intertwined briars. The piece was featured in McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 1996-97 collection entitled Dante, after the medieval Italian poet whose Divine Comedy portrayed an allegorical vision of the afterlife.
Photographed at the Cloisters as Part of the Exhibit, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, On View Through October 8th, 2018 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (at both the Fifth Avenue and Cloisters Locations) in NYC.
Note: As of 11/5/18 This Piece is Now On Exhibit at The Met Fifth Avenue as Part of the Exhibit Jewelry: The Body Transformed
There’s only one drawback when The Met allows photography at one of their fashion exhibits, and that is that I have way too many great photos to choose from, and simply cannot distill the show down to a single blog post. So, it’s extremely fortunate — for me, for you — that Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, which has been up since May, was extended to September 5th, 2016, or I’d once again be scrambling to throw something together a day before the show ends.
Just to get you up to speed, the Costume Institute’s spring 2016 exhibition explores how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear. With more than 170 ensembles dating from the early 20th century to the present, the exhibition addresses the founding of the haute couture in the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of mass production. Manus x Machina explores this ongoing dichotomy, in which hand and machine are presented as discordant tools in the creative process, and questions the relationship and distinction between haute couture and ready-to-wear.
I managed to cull ten favorite images — plus one bonus image — for this post. Enjoy!
Various Designs in Sequined and Metallic Finishes
(Left) Boué Soeurs, Court Presentation Ensemble, 1928. (Right) Designs by Alexander McQueen
Hussein Chalayan, Floating Dress
Feathered Cape and Dress By Alexander McQueen
Designs by Alexander McQueen and Iris van Herpen
Pleated Skirts by House of Dior
Miyake Design Studio
Designs by Mariano Fortuny
Designs by Madame Gres (Alix Barton, Rear) and Iris van Herpen (Front)
Designs by Commes De Garçons
And here’s your bonus image:
Don’t you want to go right now? Better hurry, you’ve got about three more weeks!
Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, will be on Exhibit at The Met Fifth Avenue in Galleries 955, 961–962 and 964–965 Through September 5th, 2016!
“Photography Not Allowed” (All Stealth Photos By Gail)
Thanks to a special allowance for the Memorial Day Holiday, The Met ended up being open on Monday and Geoffrey and I were able to head to the scenic upper west side on a very gorgeous, sunny day to check out the much ballyhooed fashion exhibit, Punk: Chaos to Couture. Photography is not allowed in the exhibit, which is a huge drag, but I was able to sneak in a few “stealth snaps” while the vigilant Art Nazis were distracted by other things, so please excuse the poor quality of my shots for this post as I was shooting in the dark with no flash! Punk Rock!
The exhibit starts out with examples of actual DIY fashions worn by the original British punks of the late 1970s. These hand fashioned outfits then inspired pioneering designer Vivienne Westood and her business partner, Malcolm McLaren, to open the clothing shop, SEX, where they sold early versions of bondage trousers, Band T Shirts and other punk gear.
Recreation of Vivienne Westwood’s Punk Rock Boutique, Sex
Vintage Punk T Shirts
It is important to understand — and this cannot be emphasized strongly enough — that the phrase “Punk Fashion” is a bit of an oxymoron, as the early Punks were not interested in following or copying any kind of fashion, but rather were doing something completely original using clothes already found in their own closets.
The Punk Aesthetic Begins its Influence on Haute Couture
Like 2011’s Savage Beauty, which showcased the genius of the late designer Alexander McQueen, Chaos to Couture maintains a reverance to the Wearable Art status of these clothes and thus is expertly laid out via a series of connected galleries that often recreate the look of downtown clubs and alleyways where the original punk fashion aesthetic was born. The rear walls of most of these galleries are illuminated by video projections of the classic punk bands performing and I enjoyed hearing some of my favorite punk music of that era by great bands like The Buzzcocks and The Damned, which helped to authenticate the sensorial experience.
As the exhibit segues gradually into runway designs by fashion houses such as Comme De Garcon, Dolce & Gabbana and Moschino (among many others), it becomes a bit more ridiculous that they are trying to maintain any kind of tenuous relationship to the Punk Rock movement, but the clothes are nevertheless fun to look at.
Still, paying $5,000 for a pair of shredded jeans because it has a designer label is not punk, it is just pathetic.
Be sure to also check out the exhibit gift shop, where you can see an exhibit based on a working class-founded movement that embraced the DIY ethic celebrated with overpriced, factory made souvenirs!
Miniature Vinyl Platform Shoes Based on a Design By Vivienne Westwood
Two different people admonished me about taking this photo, even in the gift shop (!), so you can be assured that I made certain to get the above shot!
This pink safety-pin studded clutch purse — that you could make for about $10 — sells in the gift shop for $1500! Not a typo!
Punk: Chaos to Couture Runs Through August 14th, 2013 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Located at 1000 Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street.
Now that we are just a couple of short weeks away from kicking off a spectacular New Year, full of art, music, pink things, bacon and free food, I would like to ask you, Dear Readers, how was your year? I hope it was awesome. As you can see from this Rad Blog you are now reading, I got to do some fun things in 2011, including going on my most fun vacation in many years when my sister and I took a 7 day Caribbean cruise, with three days in New Orleans on the front end. Holy cow, was that ever fun! Such adventuring! Such fine dining! Such ridiculous humidity! I’m still sweating.
What this all means is that it’s time again for the obligatory Year End Top Ten List, so, instead of going with the predictable, rote, yawnfest Top Ten CDs list I’ve decided to do more of a Pop Culture Mixed Bag, if you will. Because that is how I roll. Let’s get started.
Best Album: Manraze, PunkFunkRootsRock. Take guitarist Phil Collen from Def Leppard, team him up with drummer Paul Cook from The Sex Pistols and add Simon Laffy, the bassist from Phil’s former Glam band, Girl (because every power trio needs a bassist), and you’ve got a record that sounds, well, like a raunchier version of Def Leppard! We especially love Phil’sLemmy impersonation on “Over My Dead Body.” Record of The Year! Read my interview with Paul Cook at This Link.
That’s Me in the Back Row: Third in from the Left
Best Game Show: The Kostabi Show, where a panel of three Art critics and/or celebrities compete to title the works of modernist painter Mark Kostabi for cash awards, while a jury votes on which title suits the painting best. I had the opportunity to serve as a member of the jury for a taping this past summer and went home with $6 cash more than I had when I arrived, plus a Kostabi coffee table book signed by Mark. Bonus: free pizza! Kostabi, who is an accomplished pianist, also released a swell modern classical CD, The Spectre of Modernism, this year, which has been in heavy rotation on my iPod for ages now.
Best Beatles Thing: Dave Depper’s Ram Project, an authentically-covered version of Paul McCartney’s second solo album, complete with off-key Linda-esque backing vocals! So good!
Best Rock Book: Nick Kent’s Apathy For The Devil, a memoir of the British rock critic’s life and career in the 1970s. Everyone knows that all of the best music happened the Seventies, so I will admit that, as both a writer and fan, I certainly would have loved to have lived that life myself, save for the messy heroin addiction part.
Best Fashion-Related Museum Exhibit: Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Four words: Crown of Thorns Headdress. The Savage Beauty Exhibit set all kinds of ridiculous attendance records for the Met and was just insane. Insane!
Best Homage to Eighties Alternative Goth: Chris Connelly’s Artificial Madness. David Bowie Meets Killing Joke plus Bauhaus sautéed lightly with Magazine and a little Ministry on the side. Homage!
Best Rock Documentary:Fix, The Ministry Movie. Kids: Don’t Do Drugs. Or do a lot of them. One or the Other.
Best Seventies Southern Rock: The Sheepdogs, Five Easy Pieces EP. Bonus points to the band for their fan-winning appearance on the most recent season of Project Runway!
Reality TV (Competition): Top Chef, because Celebrity Chefs are the new Rock Stars!
Pop Culture as Art: The Suckadelic Art Toy Universe Retrospective and Pop Up Store at Boo Hooray Gallery (NYC). The judges and critics on the second season of Bravo’sWork Of Art didn’t really dig the SuckLord’s artwork too much, but his parodies of Star Wars toys served up with a serious side of snark made for one of the most subversive, hilarious and memorable art shows of the year! Art!
Honorable Mention: Kasabian’s Velociraptor, MGMT Live at the Guggenheim, The Zombies at City Winery, Single Fare Please Swipe Again at Sloan Fine Art, Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, Jeremy Dower’s Canis Mortuus Familiarus at Bold Hype Gallery, American Horror Story, Maurizio Catellan’s All Retrospective at The Guggenheim, Patti Smith at Webster Hall, The Wyld Olde Souls’ Ensoulment, Jeremy Fish Listen & Learn at Joshua Liner Gallery, Robot Chicken, Tosh.0.
The exhibit, which I saw a couple of weeks after it opened and was completely wowed by, was originally due to close on July 31st but it has been extended through August 7th due to overwhelming demand. Starting July 22nd The Met will allow members to enter the museum at 8:30 AM, an hour before the show opens to the public, via the museum’s 81st Street entrance and 80th Street garage. Additionally, from August 4th to the 7th, the exhibition will remain open until 9:00 PM, and hours for the show are now offered on Mondays, when the museum is generally closed to the public. Monday tickets, which cost $50, are available at the Met and on its website.
According to the Times, over 440,000 people have come to see the retrospective of the British fashion designer’s outrageous Haute Couture since it opened in May. Alexander McQueen committed suicide last year at the age of 40, but the Savage Beauty of his work lives on.
Alexander McQueen was not so much a fashion designer as he was an artist who created wearable works of art. When McQueen died by his own hand at the age of 40 in February of 2010, the world lost a staggering genius whose contribution to the art world was, at that point, already unfathomably huge. Thanks to curator Andrew Bolton, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has installed a phenomenal retrospective exhibit called Savage Beauty that showcases the Haute Couture collections of McQueen in a way that will undoubtedly touch the heart and stir the mind of everyone who sees it, making the tragedy of his early death almost unbearably poignant.
All Images Courtesy of The Met. Click on Each Image to Enlarge for Detail
Savage Beauty is divided into six consecutive galleries entitled The Romantic Mind, Romantic Gothic and the Cabinet of Curiosities, Romantic Exoticism, Romantic Nationalism, Romantic Primitivism and Romantic Naturalism, and each one is a mind blowing experience on its own. On display you will see garments made not only of traditional fabrics such as silk, wool and synthetics but also many natural materials including feathers, horsehair, metal, glass, fresh and fabric flowers, wood, and even razor clam and muscle shells. McQueen also created unique, thematic accessories to accent his garments, such as elaborate headdresses made of carved wood, metal, animal horns, and butterflies among many other materials. His signature “Armadillo shoe” can be seen in a variety of styles and is easily recognizable as a style of footwear that Lady Gaga has made popular just recently.
While McQueen also designed ready-to-wear clothing, as stated previously, the clothing on display here dwells in the realm of exotic costuming and wearable art that was not really made for everyday use. Much of it also borders on fetishistic, and that adds to its incredible beauty and enigma. For example, there is one striking headpiece on display called the Crown of Thorns Headdress that must really be seen to be believed. Further, Savage Beauty is a multi-sensory experience, consisting not only of the stunning visuals created by McQueen’s clothing and accessories but also by the design aspects of the individual galleries in which the garments are displayed. One gallery is decorated in a surface treatment of ancient mirrors while another is contained amid walls of grey concrete, and yet another collection is displayed in a room with walls made of rusted metal. In one of the final galleries you’ll see the walls adorned in McQueen’s own drawings, which were blown up to create wall treatments.
The exhibit takes on an almost Disneyland-esque feeling, where it seems like you are on more of a theme park ride than walking through a staid art museum. Each gallery has accompanying visuals such as video screens on the walls or embedded in the ceiling and there is an amazing 3-D hologram of Kate Moss from one of McQueen’s later shows on display in one of the final galleries. Of course, no fashion show would be complete without a soundtrack, and there is music that ranges from modern abstract rock to tribal rhythms to Mozart, as well as sound effects such as the sounds of a beating heart and shallow breathing in one gallery while another gallery is filled with the low rumbling of an excited crowd. All of these different sensory aspects come together to make Savage Beauty’s “Oh Wow” factor leap off the charts.
You can watch an eight-minute video about McQueen that also previews the exhibit at this link. I cannot recommend this exhibit highly enough. In fact, I loved it so much, I actually bought the catalog ($45, on sale in the gift shop).
Savage Beauty runs through July 31, 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located at 1000 Fifth Avenue, near 85th St. in New York City. The entrance line for the McQueen exhibit closes at 4:30 PM on weekdays and at 8 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Expect to wait at least one hour in line for entrance to the exhibit, but be assured that it will be very well worth it.
A creation of the late Alexander McQueen, and very much in the style of the rather physically challenging footwear designs he was known for, this one-off pair of heels inspired by the creature from the Alien film franchise were made for a runway show only. Sadly, they are not available to purchase.
Wow, talk about sad and shocking news: Fashion designer Alexander McQueen was found dead this morning at his home in west London. He was 40 years old. McQueen designed simply amazing clothes that were often more like works of art than wearable fashion. He will be missed.