On April 28, 2022, twenty Fellows of Robinson Gardens had the pleasure of viewing the recently installed exhibit: “Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibit is currently on view through October 9, 2022, in the Resnick Pavillon. Costume and Textiles Curators of the exhibit, Clarissa Esquerra and Michaela Hansen, gave us a private tour of the exhibit, which featured a costume collection donated by Friends of Robinson Gardens Patron member Regina J. Drucker. Donated in 2016, the collection includes objects Fortuny to Charles James to Balenciaga, along with the largest collection of Alexander McQueen ensembles in a North American public institution outside of the London Studio Archive. 69 ensembles were donated which turned out to be McQueen’s personal magical number!
The exhibit was postponed last year due to the pandemic. Regina “gifted it to Los Angeles in perpetuity with the thought of those who never saw McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (2011) or The Victoria & Albert Museum restaging in London (2015).” It is Regina’s “hope, that this exhibition will be a shining moment and a joyous event in the City of Angels, when we have all emerged from this current Age of Darkness.”
The exhibition consists of 200 objects, including 69 of McQueen’s designs, paired with items from LACMA’s permanent collection. The spacing of the exhibit is expansive and comfortable. The exhibition’s sound and lighting is done well and doesn’t take away from the items on display. Pairing the ensembles with porcelain, tapestry and paintings by 35 other artists from the LACMA permanent collection is brilliant. This reinforces the viewer’s reaction to the theme and goals of the installation. The pairing enables the viewer to better understand McQueen’s artistic legacy and his cycles of inspiration. To quote Regina, “history’s legacy is the art wrought by hands long gone. History is how we define ourselves in our time.”
L.A. designer Michael Schmidt created the headpieces, whose accessories have adorned the likes of Lady Gaga and Madonna. “He’s known for using 3-D printing technology, and so like McQueen, he shares that kind of interest in pushing boundaries in terms of materials,” Curator Hansen says of Schmidt, whom the museum commissioned for the exhibit.
McQueen was a British fashion designer and couturier. He was proficient in tailoring and designing. He started his career as a tailor on Savile Row before launching his own line in 1992. Prior to that, he was the chief designer for Givenchy. McQueen’s designs married artistry with exceptional technical ability.
The key elements are Roman, Gothic and Victorian-inspired pieces. McQueen was influenced by 19th century art, history and fashion. He often uses dark colors, thick fabrics and red lace. He was fascinated with the elements - earth, wind, fire and water. An example of a lighter side is highlighted in the white cape dress Regina wore to the Met Gala. The draping is dramatic. It floats down the bodice.
Dress Regina wore at the 2011 McQueen Exhibit at the Met Gala
The overall impact of the exhibition is immeasurable, and it is truly worth seeing. It’s divided into four distinct sections— Mythos, Fashioned Narratives, Technique and Innovation, and Evolution and Existence. It is a rare opportunity for the costume admirer to engage in a through exploration of Alexander McQueen’s depth of work and his exquisite tailoring.
Five pieces from McQueen’s Plato Atlantis collection are included in the exhibit. Regina donated the dress worn by the mannequin in the middle in the photograph below in honor of Jeanne Anderson and the Virginia Robinson Gardens. The collection imagined fashion’s future. It’s decorative but based on a living organism. The design is a union of animal forms, including snakeskin and sequins.
Regina loves Robinson Gardens, its members and, in particular, Jeanne. She calls her friends, ‘sisters of the garden.’ Associated with VRG since the early 2000’s, Regina made this donation as a very thoughtful way to honor Jeanne and her limitless contributions to Robinson Gardens. To quote Regina, “It’s a tranquil, historic setting, anchored in serenity.”
Fellows in attendance were excited and relieved to be together again. Lunch at Ray’s and the Stark Bar was welcoming and delicious. Laughter, conversation, dawdling – none of us wanted this fun and educational visit to LACMA to end.
Post by Wendy Wintrob
Photos by Wendy Wintrob and Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Members