The exhibition will run from May 4 to August 7 and takes a look back over two decades of McQueen's work, beginning with his graduate collection from Central St Martins College of Art, right through to his final collection which was shown in the weeks after his last year death.
The exhibit curator, Andrew Bolton, placed the designer in the context of 18th and 19th-century Romantic artists, poets, and writers showing that McQueen was an artist whose medium happened to be fashion. Bolton cited a Shakespeare quote that McQueen had tattooed on his arm as a starting point for the show: "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.
At Monday's press preview, Bolton explained that in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," those words are said by Helena, someone who believed that love could transform something grotesque into something beautiful. McQueen was a believer, too, he said. "All of McQueen's collections were fashioned around elaborate narratives, and the exhibition is intended to evoke a gothic fairy tale, a fairy tale that is pushed forward by McQueen's imagination."
The exhibition is thematically divided in categories and themes such as ' The Romantic mind” which will examine his subversion of traditional tailoring and dressmaking practices through displacement and deconstruction; “The Savage Mind”; and the “Romantic Gothic” which will highlight McQueen's narrative approach to fashion and illuminate his engagement with Romantic literary traditions such as death, decay, and darkness. Further galleries feature the themes Romantic Naturalism, Romantic Primitivism, Romantic Nationalism, and Romantic Exoticism, as well as a Cabinet of Curiosities.
This division brilliantly shows off McQueen’s highly creative nature, as we see him making strong statements on everything from global concepts of beauty, to various historical transgressions, and to the specific ecological moment we face today. The show maintains that McQueen was an artist who was always looking and thinking, using a host of inspirations from popular film, to science, and to nature.
Sarah Burton, longtime deputy and designer of the current McQueen collection and designer of Kate Middleton's much-heralded wedding dress, said that McQueen put “emotion, passion and attention to detail in everything that he did.”