Despite it’s rather short run from May 4 to August 11, 2011, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty attracted 661,509 visitors, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website. If you were one of the lucky people who was able to view this exhibit, you definitely understood why. I’ve always been one for museums, but finally having one of the most celebrated designers of all time in a full featured attraction was probably one of the best things that could have happened to the Met–and fashion world in general. The first time I visited Savage Beauty was with my mom towards the end of the summer. We bought memberships to the Met (totally worth it to cut the line), and basically, we were stunned. Lives were changed. The exhibit traveled through various aspects of McQueen’s design, from his earlier tailoring pieces from Central Saint Martins to his final collection, Plato’s Atlantis, from S/S 2010. Check out the Met’s blog about the exhibit–just the pictures will give you chills.
While the exhibit itself certainly served as a huge asset to the Met, bringing in many more viewers and membership registrations than other exhibits in the past, Savage Beauty’s importance exceeded simply being a source of revenue for the museum. Having an exhibit attract that was strictly based on fashion attract so many visitors was a huge success for the world of retail and design. In my opinion, in today’s age of fast fashion and instant consumer gratification, people lose sight of what design is really about. But beautifully curated displays and detailed descriptions of each of McQueen’s collections were a source of inspiration for every person who waited in line to see that exhibit. It’s definitely what brought me back a second (and even a third) time.
Savage Beauty also helped establish the Met as a source of information and inspiration for fashion lovers everywhere. The newest exhibit to open on May 10th, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, is shaping up to be an amazing follow-up to Savage Beauty. They’re even live-streaming the Met Gala on May 7th! I know I can’t wait – and having the Met membership will mean I won’t have to wait in line (hopefully). Again, insider tip: buy the membership. Not only are you supporting an amazing institution, but in a few visits, it’ll pay for itself. Trust me.
New York Magazine (one of my favorite sources for up-to-date information) has a great slideshow with pictures from the upcoming exhibit. The purpose of Impossible Conversations is to create a fictional encounter between the two designers, Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli, and compare and contrast their designs spanning the ages in which they lived. I don’t know about you, but I think this sounds fantastic (as does my mom, who’s already begun emailing me articles about it). Comments on the NYMag article, however, reflect opposite opinions on the exhibit: some people are excited by the contrast, whereas others think the Costume Institute may be trying too hard to pair up an unlikely couple. Personally, I think the idea of pairing a well known, current designer whose target consumer spans various ages, incomes, and interests, with an older, lesser-known (but just as influential) designer is a great idea. This will most likely attract more people – from those who simply recognize the name “Prada” to others who can recall various Schiaparelli collections off the top of their heads.
Although all of these exhibits seem very centrally located in Manhattan, if you’re not from the metropolitan area, don’t fear. While I would argue that flying to the Met would probably be worth it (it sure would have been for Savage Beauty), you still might be able to find a fashion exhibit near you this summer. The Denver Art Museum is hosting Yves Saint Lauren: The Retrospective right now until July 8th. If I could get out to Colorado to see it, I definitely would (weekend trip to Denver, anyone?). Although it’s probably near impossible to contain the entirety of Yves Saint Laurent’s work and influences, the exhibit is broken up into a series of areas, including “Birth of a Revolutionary Couturier”, “Le Smoking” (all about his tuxedoes), and “The Colors of Yves Saint Laurent”, which seems like a manageable solution.
And if you’re looking for a broader exhibit, make sure you take a look at FIT’s IMPACT: 50 Years of the CFDA. Unfortunately this exhibit closed on April 17th, but the book available as a companion is surely worth the purchase. The book includes pictures form the most influential designers of the CFDA, as well as an amazing forward and commentary by Diane von Furstenberg and one of my favorites, Cathy Horyn. The permanent museum at FIT is also worth the trip – the displays take you through various decades by designers in alphabetical order, with some pieces dating back past the 1950′s. Part One will run until May 8th, followed by Part Two from May 23 to November 10, 2012.
Exhibits like these are wonderful opportunities to take a look at fashion the way it was meant to be: as a commentary, as an art, and as an inspiration. Make sure to take advantage of ones near you–and don’t be afraid to go back two, three, ten, twelve times. You gain a little something more every time you go.