Yesterday saw the official announcement of the Victoria and Albert’s intention to exhibit the record-breaking retrospective of the late Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty. The exhibition will make its way to London next March and will run until July.
Tickets are already on sale and although the show has not sold out quite yet, the website is reporting a massive demand. The huge response to this news comes as further proof of the prevailing trend and popularity of mega-exhibitions.
The blockbuster art show and its true merits have been debated for quite some time now. Of course, there are countless positive points to remember. Besides offering a financial boost to otherwise scanty arts funding, the blockbuster offers an opportunity to bring otherwise privately owned artworks into public view, helps in providing a more rounded and complete perspective of a particular artist or period or indeed, opening up scholarly research into previously undermined areas. However the tendancy towards producing monographic retrospectives seems to be restrictive in a curatorial sense. The monographic show is a popular choice and a crowd-pleaser but it isn’t particularly challenging and seems to be quite restrictive from a scholarly viewpoint.
Further problems seem to arise when the traditional preference for a quiet and reflective museum or gallery experience is so greatly disturbed. I’m thinking back to my own experience of the 2012 Edward Hopper show in Paris’ Grand Palais. Armed with my sneaky Sesame annual pass, I made my way there for the final night’s nocturnal opening and thankfully slipped past what would have otherwise been a four-hour wait in line. Mammoth crowds of tourists and locals alike waited in the freezing cold nonetheless.
Inside, the galleries were mobbed and the famed isolation of Hopper’s paintings was at times difficult to embody while people elbowed each other for a better view. The chance to view Nighthawks at 3 am with a bunch of strangers was certainly memorable and it was wonderful to see such enthusiasm and interest for an exhibition, I’m just hoping the McQueen show is a little more relaxed and allows for more contemplation than is generally afforded by the blockbuster atmosphere.
I’ll report back in a year or so, provided it’s not sold out in the morning.
Featured image – Alexander McQueen (British, 1969–2010). Dress, autumn/winter 2010–11. Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø via http://blog.metmuseum.org/alexandermcqueen/
More information about the upcoming exhibition at http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-alexander-mcqueen-savage-beauty/