Andrew Bolton on the Met’s Alexander McQueen Exhibit

As if you didn’t know, we’re in the midst of a major McQueen moment. Not only did Kate Middleton choose the label’s creative director, Sarah Burton, to design her top-secret wedding dress, but it’s now just days until Savage Beauty, a massive exhibit of the late designer’s work at the Metropolitan Museum, is launched with the infamous Met Gala. (Daphne Guinness, too, will do her part to inaugurate the exhibit with a performance-art piece in the windows of Barneys.) We tracked down curator Andrew Bolton of the Met’s Costume Institute, who first pushed McQueen as this year’s theme, for a glimpse of what’s to come…

“When I first came across Lee McQueen, he was still relatively unknown. Isabella Blow was at the Ritz in London, where he was showing his clothes in one of the rooms. I remember she was running up and down the halls, telling people to come and see his clothes. I think even then one knew his potential.”

“When [co-curator] Harold Koda and I first approached the museum’s director, Thomas Campbell, with the idea of doing a tribute to Alexander McQueen, his response was immediately positive, as he was familiar with the artistry of McQueen. He was also familiar with McQueen through previous exhibitions staged by the Costume Institute.”

“Beyond the emotions of the moment, the museum felt compelled to stage a retrospective on McQueen while his body of work was still intact. Since none of the clothes were owned by the museum, we depended on the extensive collection of the McQueen archive in London. I was amazed at its breadth, which spans McQueen’s prolific career.”

“[Show producers] Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett worked with McQueen almost from the beginning, creating his spectacular runway shows that were more on the level of avant-garde installation or performance art. They channeled the dominant leitmotifs of McQueen’s shows to produce a series of environments that are breathtaking in their beauty and transformative in their experience.“

“Stella McCartney’s career trajectory almost parallels that of McQueen, and her insights into the London fashion scene during the ’90s, when McQueen was establishing his reputation, have been invaluable.”

“When he was asked once in an interview what his Scottish roots meant to him, he responded, ‘Everything.’”

“McQueen saw fashion as a catalyst for generating a heightened sensitivity to feelings, and through his runway shows he validated powerful emotions and compelling sources of aesthetic pleasure.”

“As a designer, McQueen resolutely promoted freedom of expression and championed the authority of the imagination.”