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Alexander McQueen Exhibitions

May 24, 2015

I know that I’ve written about Alexander McQueen really recently, but with two major Alexander McQueen Exhibitions exhibitions on in London about the designer lately it would be unforgivable not to have a look at the shows.


Unfortunately, the Nick Waplington photography show at Tate Britain – “Alexander McQueen Working Progress” closes this weekend (May 17th) but the marvellous show at the V&A, Alexander McQueen : Savage Beauty is on until 2nd August, so you’ve got plenty of time.

Alexander McQueen-Exhibitions

Alexander McQueen-Exhibitions-Savage Beauty

Make sure that you make the most of the time at Alexander McQueen Exhibitions, because you’ll want to visit this show more than once.


Also, top tip: make sure that you come more than an hour before the closing time, or the gallery assistants will constantly helpfully remind you that you’ve got just one hour… three quarters of an hour… half an hour to see everything, thus prompting you to shuffle on and not spend the whole hour examining one dress, something which I’d be happy to do especially as several aren’t behind glass and are within touching distance (but no, Mr Gallery Assistant, I didn’t really touch the hem of the sacred robe.)

Alexander McQueen-Exhibitions – The Greatest Hits

Alexander McQueen Exhibitions is a really great survey of the controversial designer’s career. It can’t recapture the showmanship of his unpredictable catwalk shows, but it has its own kind of rhythm and drama, and the multi-sensory experience, with insistent sound track, video pieces, imaginative set design (because you have to call each room a set, not a display) and a famous hologram, far from being invasively at odds with the garments really helps them to feel intriguing.


I’ve seen shows which petered out into static lines of mannequins wearing outfits that you can do little but march past, and some where the interactive element is kind of bizarre (I’m thinking of the Gaultier show at the Barbican, where the mannequins winked at you as you passed), but this is dizzyingly exciting.

Wonderful Set Design

Alexander McQueen Exhibitions goes from early pieces from the Alexander McQueen MA show right up to his unfinished last collection, and while the set design encompasses some wonderful gilt framed display cases and a truly questionable bone lined cave, save your energy for the piece de resistance, the wunderkammer.


This room sized cabinet of curiosities contains black laquered compartments in every size to display examples of shoes, hats, breastplates, stockings, jewellery, dresses, corsets, videos of catwalk shows, and just about every wonderful item, it seems, that passed through Alexander McQueen s mind in his career.


Some are at eye level, some high above at ceiling level, but the room is lit in a way that you can see everything well. I love it because it offers an opportunity to see the perfect craftsmanship that went into realising each design, and they really are immaculately well made by jeweler Shaune Leane, milliner Philip Treacey, and very many artisans and petit mains.

Working Progress

The second show, Nick Waplington’s, focuses on the final Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter collection, Horn of Plenty in 2009. As the title, Working Process indicates, it shows the process behind the flamboyant shows: the fit model having swatches pinned on her, interns gluing feathers on hats, etc.


Whereas the first show, Alexander McQueen Exhibitions: Savage Beauty may convert a non-believer into a wannabe fashionista, this second one is firmly for someone who has already seen the finished product and wants to know more.


Though the show will be finished by the time you read this, the photo book behind the exhibition is still available.




Beautiful free standing gold display cases at the show. Picture credit – Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The dress it was tempting to touch. Picture credit – Victoria and Albert Museum-Alexander McQueen-Exhibitions

Amazing Highwayman at Savage Beauty. Picture credit – Victoria and Albert Museum.

A view of the cabinet of curiosities room. The photo doesn’t do it justice. Picture credit – Victoria and Albert Museum.

Alexander McQueen-Exhibitions-Baronial rows inside Savage Beauty. Picture credit – Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Savage Beauty exhibition. Dodgy bone-lined niches. Picture credit – Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Alexander McQueen-Exhibitions-Dodgy bone-lined niches. Picture credit – Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

A theatrical setting. Picture credit – Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Nick Waplington, Untitled, 2008-2009. Photo credit Nick Waplington.

Nick Waplington, Untitled, 2008-2009. Photo credit Nick Waplington.