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Curator Claire Wilcox talks all things McQueen with LCF students

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IMAGE: Title: Installation view of ‘Romantic Exoticism’ gallery Artist: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A Date: 2015 Credit line: Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Written by
akerr
Published date
15 May 2015

LCF’s Claire Wilcox, part of the Centre for Fashion Curation, curated the stand-out V&A exhibition Savage Beauty. She recently gave LCF students an exclusive insight into her experience and vision of curating the show and her thoughts on McQueen and his archive.

IMAGE: Title: Installation view of 'Romantic Exoticism' gallery  Artist:  Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A  Date: 2015  Credit line: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

IMAGE: Title: Installation view of ‘Romantic Exoticism’ gallery
Artist: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A
Date: 2015
Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

To start the talk, Claire discussed why she felt the Savage Beauty exhibition should come to London, expressing that:

“His radical and fearless vision changed the way we looked at fashion.”

Seeing Savage Beauty in New York convinced her that the exhibition should come to the United Kingdom. The V&A was the ideal place – starting with Fashion in Motion in 1999 McQueen had a long standing relationship with the gallery.

IMAGE: Title: Installation view of 'Romantic Primitivism' gallery   Artist:  Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A  Date: 2015  Credit line: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

IMAGE: Title: Installation view of ‘Romantic Primitivism’ gallery
Artist: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A
Date: 2015
Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Claire went on to talk about McQueen’s connection with the V&A, explaining that he had been very inspired by the collections on display, something she saw when they worked on Radical Fashion together in 2001. She added that McQueen once told her, in reference to the V&A:

“I’d like to be shut in here overnight.”

Wilcox had the amazing opportunity to look at his library whilst creating the exhibition and this informed her understanding of him as, “very sensitive, very informed, well read.” Claire explained that McQueen pushed extreme boundaries and had the power and skill to translate research into fashion moments, referencing his highly controversial Highland Rape collection.

This is the first time Wilcox has curated such a large show. Claire said:

“The intention was for it to be immersive, to capture the excitement of a McQueen show.”

IMAGE: Title: Installation view of 'Romantic Gothic' gallery  Artist:  Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A  Date: 2015  Credit line: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

IMAGE: Title: Installation view of ‘Romantic Gothic’ gallery
Artist: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A
Date: 2015
Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The exhibition itself is laid out in different rooms with different themes, Savage Mind focuses on tailoring, Romantic Gothic celebrates the more dramatic and theatrical of McQueen’s work, and Romantic Primitivism sees a small room filled with bones and memento mori come to life with a film screened on the ceiling.

Whilst showing images of the beautiful exhibition, Claire discussed the many influences behind McQueen’s work. National Geographic magazine was clearly one of them, as Claire explained:

“He took nature and made it McQueen… horror, beauty, craft & skill.”

And of course not forgetting McQueen’s Scottish heritage, clearly referenced through the abundance of tartan in his collections. In her Q&A at the end of the talk, Claire made the point that:

“It’s important not to focus on the current fashion house when talking about this exhibition, as it is about Lee Alexander McQueen’s work.” adding that she, “desperately wanted to get it right, for Lee’s sake.”

Well we definitely think she got it right!