June 21, 2024

If there’s been a more evocative – or truer – title for an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in recent years, I missed it. And while Savage Beauty concisely defines the life-work of Alexander McQueen, it also tells a greater, bolder truth: this is way more than just fashion; it’s Rousseau (both of them) come to life. It’s also one of the most compellingly immersive theatrical events of the year. Despite exhausting crowds and a line that practically quarantines the Impressionists as it snakes its way through Babylon and Assyria and into the Great Hall, Savage Beauty is a head-spinning head trip worthy of the endurance it demands. In truth, by the time you’ve wandered your way through – or been carried along by the crowd, depending on how you time it – the endless jostling seems an almost calculated manifestation of the constant conflict inherent in McQueen’s designs: life or death? Lightness or darkness? Predator or prey? Man or machine? Lest you think that’s a lot of philosophical ground for a handful of dresses to navigate, this show will elevate any future expectations. What it also makes stupefying clear is that Alexander McQueen was foremost a first-rank artist.

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