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Savage Beauty: Alexander McQueen

For their spring exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute has chosen to examine the work of British designer Alexander McQueen, who took his own life in February of last year. The exhibition -- which we were able to preview yesterday -- is under the direction of curator Andrew Bolton and examines the main themes that McQueen explored during his illustrious career.

The show consists of approximately 100 clothing ensembles and 70 accessories from the McQueen archives, starting with his post-graduate collection from Central Saint Martins University and ending with pieces from his final collection for fall 2010. The collected pieces tell the story of a man fascinated by extremes who obessively explored the contrasts of typical conceits of beauty versus the horrific. Throughout the show, quotes from McQueen help guide the viewers' journey and reveal the process behind his motivations and inspirations. "Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places," one cryptically reads, surrounded by ensembles that can at times be awe-inspiring in their detailed craftsmanship and frightening in their mien. Another reads, "I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things."

Broken into seven themes, the show powerfully invokes McQueen's ability to bravely create disturbing imagery -- women bound as if in straightjackets or ensnared in sadomasochistic garb -- but also how these typically abnormal, disturbing visions often rose above their archetypical confines and morphed into objects of perverse allure. Perhaps his most powerful challenge was his attempt to get his critics to look beyond their preconceived notions of what constitutes beauty and ugliness in order to understand that both exist in everything. And those who allowed themselves to be swept up in that tension found that he was much more than merely a clothing designer. Perhaps McQueen puts it best: "There's no way back for me now. I am going to take you on journeys you've never dreamed were possible."

For our slideshow of images from the show, click here.

Savage Beauty: Alexander McQueen will be on display May 4th - July 31st 2011 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028. For information, click here.

Photos Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph (c) Solve Sundsbo / Art + Commerce

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