A couple weeks ago I headed down to see what may be the hottest museum exhibit of the summer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. What do I mean by hottest? No the Met’s air conditioning is not broken, but the exhibit’s lines do reach over an hour wait many days of the week. In fact, at the entrances of the museum there are now signs telling you the wait time of the exhibit before you enter, reminiscent of the signs you see Disney World telling you the wait time of the rides upon entering a park. The key to minimizing wait time, my friends and I were told after unsuccessfully trying to visit the exhibit late on a Saturday afternoon, is to go on a weekday morning.
I returned to the exhibit on a Wednesday around 11:20am. I had been told that the line began to pick up around 11am. When I entered the museum I was pleased to see a sign that listed a 0 minute wait time. I then found my way to the exhibit and were surprised to see a rather long line. It seemed as if the sign had not been updated, or that in the few minutes it took us to find the exhibit the line had grown. I soon confirmed the latter to be the case, as an older couple informed me that they had walked by just minutes before getting in line and it was empty, while now it stretched down a long hallway. Luckily the wait proved short and I was in within 10 minutes.
Once in the exhibit I was surprised at how crowded it was. It is packed like a theme park, which makes reading cards describing the pieces difficult. Those in the crowd that wished to do so formed a pseudo-line that moved from piece to piece fairly smoothly, though there was no set system so really anyone could cut in to examine a particular piece and disturb the self guided system of viewing. Once you did get up close and personal however, the work was truly stunning.
I felt as if this exhibit was one of the best curated exhibits I had ever been to. From the selection of quotes selected to go with the works to the sound design, to the completely amazing construction of the rooms that harbored the exhibit’s pieces, so much thought went into the presentation of McQueen’s daring work and the effect is a truly amazing complete package. Much has been done by the Met to set a very strong atmosphere for the exhibit, and each room adopts a unique feel tailored to the collections it displays.
Some amazing multimedia was also on display, showing actual collections as they premiered on the runway, and exemplifying to the exhibit-goer how McQueen turned fashion shows into performance art. A particularly stunning video showed how a dress was dyed in front of an audience using robots that sprayed ink onto the dress and the model wearing it. The dress was immediately under this video, and one was at once able to see the product and the ingenious creation of it. Another amazing piece shows off a hologram used in a show, which truly must be seen as no description will do it justice.
The only element of the exhibit I was not particularly fond of was the headdresses placed on the mannequins that were designed for the exhibit. Not original to the collections, they proved distracting from the work of the artist we were there to see. They drew my attention away from the amazing pieces hung on the mannequins, and also seemed to unify the collections more than McQueen intended to in the first place. The clothes spoke for themselves, and while the music and set design seemed to amplify the mood, these headpieces seemed to interrupt it. They felt as intrusive as if a wall on which Pollocks was hung had been previously splattered with paint enhance the artwork.
The head pieces/masks were only a minor failing in what otherwise was a huge success though. The exhibit left me totally inspired. And while its been over three weeks since I visited now, I am still thinking of it regularly. I would highly recommend visiting before it closes on August 7th. It is free with admission to the Met, which is also free with a student CUID and a valid semester sticker through CUarts Passport to NY. Go see the exhibit, and go on a weekday at 11am or earlier if you want to escape the lines.
Cody Holliday Haefner
Columbia College ’12
Arts Initiative Student Associate