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Monday, August 8, 2011

Are We There Yet?: Alexander McQueen at the Met

From a very Night at the Museumesque film shoot there for the movie I've been working on to finding myself doing yoga between the Chinese and Near East Art galleries on the museum's second floor, I guess you can say the Metropolitan Museum of Art has yielded some unique experiences for me this year. The yoga wasn't part of some "be one with the Buddha sculptures" museum sponsored group activity so much as alleviating sore muscles endured from a 4 hour wait for the Costume Institute's Alexander McQueen exhibit. It was the last day and I knew I'd regret not checking it out.

While the show itself was very evocative and illuminated on the visionary's artistic outpourings for the masses, I am actually compelled to write more about the journey itself, because something very interesting happens to people who partake in this type of shared experience- especially one that involves mild physical sacrifice.

At the center of enormous local attention, the museum took on a slightly imperious role. I noticed that in an effort to control, the staff became convinced they had the right to touch their guests, moving them around accordingly to shape the line in a fire hazard-safe way (we're talking inches here)... In no other circumstance, except maybe a security check would somebody feel so allowed to handle me. I let it slide, mostly because I was too tired to complain, but also because I couldn't resist feeling I was part of this "we're all in this together-let's make it easy for one another" sort of exchange. By the 2.5 hour point I literally felt like I was a contestant on Survivor, craving food and water since I didn't have the smarts some of my bemoaning neighbors did with their books, worn New Yorker copies and smelly candy bars.

I read all of the literature I could get my hands on since I didn't have much in my purse besides makeup, a Netflix I have to remember to return, a dying cell phone and a wallet. Too tired to be witty on Twitter and cautious of remaining battery life, I opted for every brochure or map the museum could offer. Didja know they have a new Arabic art wing this year? And by the way, the Met has a fantastic season lined up for us, New York! The Pacifica Quartet will be opening the season with Beethoven's string quartets, ahem... Opus 131 on opening night. Coincidence? ;) Ahem, just sayin' (aforementioned movie being worked on is inspired by / structured around the piece).

As we entered actual galleries around hour 3, I have never seen eyes drawn more intensely on old plates, vases, warfare artifacts and worn statues. The eye craves anything and everything becomes stimulating after so much stagnation. By hour 3.5, making our way into European painting and sculpture gallery, people were having visual orgasms over Jules-Bastien Lepage and (my personal favorite) Henri Regnault. The latter's rendition of Salome (pictured below) has became a sort of source of personal empowerment-meets-memory-talisman.

People also began to feel quite at home past the halfway point, as evidenced by my downward dog on the museum's marble ground and my hind neighbor's disrespectfully leaning against a Rodin pedestal table! This is the same guy that answered his phone to comment, "Yea, I've been waiting in line to see some dresses for over 3 hours... Some famous guy who died recently." This was very weird to hear.

Why would a devout Yankee fan like himself wait for so long, so patiently, missing Sunday's game just to "see some dresses"? To appease his wife? I decided it was for this masochistic, shared experience that made us all the same kind of loopy-headed. It was about 7:30 pm and I looked down onto the foyer to see a line equally as long as the one I eagerly joined, and after exiting one hour later from that instant, I would see that the line outside of the museum was just as windy also, and it had been snaking into the park since the museum opened that morning! As ridiculous as it may seem, the diversity of people itself- old, young, tourists, locals, families, conservative, snobby, quiet, loud- in this mecca-like turnout for Alexander McQueen was profound to me! I found it to be a bonding and hopeful moment for humanity! Mere hoopla and sensationalism doesn't keep people around for that long, but being part of a historical event, even though you know nothing about what you're engaging in, is a magnificent, inspiring thing itself. Even though it was witnessing Mr. McQueen's sharp vision and craftsmanship firsthand that served as my private and ultimate emotional release for the entire experience, I think that, much like with sex and pilgrimages, it was my 4 hour journey that ended up revealing more about my visit than witnessing the work on display.

Everyone was so focused on time. How much longer? Where's the halfway point? Where exactly is the exhibit? Since the endless line just kept going through gallery after wing after floor... I felt like the Qing Dynasty ceramics and Syrian spectres of 3000 BC Hittite jewelers were laughing at us the entire time, What do you know about time?! I know that everywhere I look lately I see people going through great sacrifices to express themselves, to be seen in a way that can rival this ephemerality. I see people going looney because they can't express themselves the way they wish, or have to suppress certain desires to more successfully provide for their families, and for the first time, at 27 years old I am starting to view almost everybody as an aspiring artist! There's no better place to ruminate on this than amongst high security halls guarding the end results of similar and different yet primally connected ways of thinking and active urges to explain through creation... And on this particular Sunday, time warping from a muggy, humid American present reality to and through the remains of the birthplaces of civilization- from Chinese statues to ancient Japanese ceramics, to Syrian and Mesopotamian bronze wares and an array of the Masters' finest paintings- all very appropriately adorning a special and fussy path to one of Our era's masters' personal contribution to Our awe-inspiring creative history.


  1. ughhh but you've said nothing about the show!!! I want DETAILS

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I don't think it's my place, or this blog's, to talk about him for some reason... But there's a loooovely book you can purchase here which does a much better job on giving background about it all

  4. I wanna know what you thought of the show/exhibition/curation-- what the heck, let those of us on the west coast live vicariously through your fortune of having been able to go!!!!


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I'm an LA transplant now living in Brooklyn. I develop film projects by day, write at night, and have a dangerous predilection for vintage Robinson Golluber scarves- this blog serves as a tiny window to everything else I do when I'm not satisfying those first three passions. I'm trying to blog more and tweet less @annabelleqv. What about you?


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