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Saturday, May 14, 2011

McQueen Exhibit: Membership Has Its Privileges

I was excited when Travis e-mailed me recently to ask if I'd be interested in checking out the Alexander McQueen exhibit, Savage Beauty, at the Met. He'd joined the museum this year and wanted to put his membership to use.

Anticipating long lines, given the heightened interest in the brand since Sarah Burton designed Kate Middleton's wedding gown, we fueled up with a big brunch at Sarabeth's on Madison and 92nd. In short: YUM! YUM! YUM!

I've had some great brunches since I've been living in the city, but this was one of the best because we decided to share plates and coordinate our order. So, we did not have to resolve the Great Brunch Debate of sweet vs. savory -- we had both!
Plate #1: an omelette with potatoes, ham, leeks and gruyere.
Plate 2: lemon ricotta pancakes -- so light, and with just the perfect amount of lemony tartness to counter the sweetness of the syrup and berries. (Note also what I think may be the largest bloody Mary available on the Upper East Side.)

We cleaned our plates and proceeded to the Met, where we found ourselves at the end of an interminable roped line that snaked through numerous galleries. Travis pulled out his membership card in jest.

"Um, hello!" he whispered to me in feigned indignation. "Isn't there a special line for members?"
At that moment, a docent came along. "Oh! Sir! Are you a member?" she asked. "Come this way, please!" We looked at each other in disbelief and laughed our way to the front of the line.

Despite the efforts at crowd control, the exhibit was packed, but we both loved it. Upon entering, you see two incredible dresses, one made of red medical slides and feathers, the other made of razor clam shells stripped and varnished.
I had to read some of the exhibit's text two or three times to make sense of it: "Rare among designers, he saw beyond clothing's physical constraints to its ideational and ideological possibilities."

"For McQueen, the body was a site for contravention, where normalcy was questioned and the spectacle of marginality was embraced and celebrated."
The way the exhibit is laid out and thematically presented is quite brilliant and beautifully done. We especially enjoyed the section on sadomasochistic accessories, including this bizarre mouthpiece, which I dubbed "haute headgear."
The exhibit noted that McQueen's shows "elicited an uneasy pleasure that merged wonder and terror, incredulity and revulsion." That comment reminded me of the fact that I tend to love modern art because it incites a range of emotions -- something more complex and richer than just, "Oh, well, isn't that pretty/nice."

The exhibit was certainly geared more toward costuming than ordinary clothing. But it was provocative, and it made me reconsider our constructs of what's acceptable or appropriate to wear. For example, when I saw a coat made of long coils of black hair, I thought, "That's kind of disgusting." Funny enough, I've never had that reaction to seeing women draped in fur or suede.

One of the most unforgettable moments was seeing Kate Moss appear in a hologram wearing a ruffled organza "oyster" dress. It was the most ethereal thing I've ever witnessed, and you can see it here. The New York Times also has a great video interview about the exhibit.

We wandered through the 20th Century galleries, and then I suggested we check out "Arms and Armor" in case Travis needed a little testosterone to balance out the fashion overload. Such a fun day!


Dee Stephens said...

That sounds like a perfect day! At first I thought how in the world you took pictures in the exhibit but then realized you took them from their site.
Loving that big bloody mary too!

Sherry said...

Membership has its privilege, I guess. The gowns are remarkable, but the video of Kate in the ruffle number makes me think of ghosts with fine fashion sense. Will pass on the haute headgear - ouch! I love your blog - and great tip on sharing the breakfast so you get it all. Perhaps that is the secret to your life in NYC...not the mix of sweet and savory, but the gusto to grab it all.

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