Rendez-Vous: Lee Alexander McQueen and Ann Ray -The Crocker Art Museum- Sacramento, California
"Brilliant, dynamic, and provocative, the British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen founded his eponymous label in 1993 and also led design at Givenchy between 1996 and 2001. Soon after he joined Givenchy, he met French photographer Ann Ray, whose stunning photographs recorded and inspired McQueen’s work behind the scenes and in runway shows for the next thirteen years. Combining Ray's intimate portraits and backstage images, along with key garments from McQueen’s most celebrated fashion collections and design drawings, this exhibition provides a unique insight into the creative process of this influential and complex figure. Rendez-Vous is organized and produced by Barrett Barrera Projects."
McQueen is known as "one of the twentieth century's most visionary designers" with his highly artistic fashion designs appealing to, and studied by, many people.
While arriving at the exhibit, a story began to unfold of the professional friendship and artistic connection of both McQueen and Ray. McQueen, the talented fashion designer, and the equally talented photographer, Ray, who had an eye for the photographic beauty in McQueen's works as her own subjects. From the first room of the exhibit, and throughout, both of McQueen and Ray's works are prominently displayed.
The opening signage explains that McQueen was a "troubled artist" who kept a tight-knit group of collaborators, one such person being Ray. The partnership between the two began in 1997, lasting 13 years, and 43 photographic collections, with Ray documenting McQueen's work and creative process with her photographic works. Several times throughout each of the 13 years the two collaborated, McQueen and Ray would have a "Randez-vous- a weird, unexpected, warm, essential meeting."
Ray had exclusive access to McQueen during this collaboration period, and thus, the fruits of this exhibit were created...
Enter with me into the second room of the exhibit, where a line-up of six exquisitely tailored coats and a dress are displayed, created by McQueen throughout the years 1998-2003.
It is evident when studying the details and fit of these fashion designs that McQueen has a tailoring background. McQueen's designs are dramatic and striking. I love the flow of the exhibit as I began to enter into a labyrinth of rooms, that take the museum patron from one faze of McQueen's career seamlessly into the next. The garments were displayed in such a way, that the details and craftsmanship of each article of clothing were highlighted and showcased. The rooms are dark, but the garments and photographs are lit by a spotlight further adding to the dramatic effect of these artistic creations.
Here are a few closer photos of this second display:
The following area of the exhibit introduces more of Ray's work and describes how McQueen was impressed with Ray's photographs. However, back in 1997, as McQueen was just starting out in his career as a fashion designer, he was unable to afford Ray's photographs. "The two established a barter system", where McQueen would exchange custom clothing created by him for Ray's photographic services.
Here are four fashion ensembles that McQueen created for Ann Ray, as well as photographs taken of McQueen and his models by Ray.
You can see here that Ray's photographs are not typical of Fashion Photography, but are more editorial, and artistic. This photographic approach really pairs well with McQueen's fashion design aesthetic. McQueen's clothing is artistic and dramatic, which I felt was really highlighted by Ray's stunning black and white photos.
Now, let's reflectively stroll through the rest of the exhibit rooms...
The dress pictured here, front and center, is called Eshu from McQueens Autumn/Winter 2000 Collection. This dress has been a favorite design of mine ever since I learned of Alexander McQueen back in fashion design school. I recall the first time I saw a photo of this moss covered dress, in a book, while studying fashion, and how impressed I was with the look. However, nothing could prepare me for how exquisite this dress was in real life! The moss-like effect is achieved by glass beadwork! The skirt is made with real horsehair! It is absolutely gorgeous in person.
The plaque on the display said this about Eshu:
"Eshu A/W 2000
Glass Bead and Horsehair Midi Dress
For his A/W 2000 Collection, McQueen explored the ideas of primitivism and tribalism in fashion. The collection was rich with references to traditional African dress, such as Ndebele neck rings and Samburu beadwork, and drew its title from Yoruba deity Eshu, the personification of mischief. This dress is a case study in couture dressmaking techniques as well as a collision between Western dress aesthetics and non-Western craft traditions. Although it was not uncommon for designers to derive inspiration from other cultures in the late 1990's, present conversations surrounding the ethics of such cross-cultural borrowings forces a reassessment of this collection. Specifically, one needs to consider the extent to which it blurs the boundaries between respectful appreciation and cultural appropriations."
I found the story behind the following Embroidered Evening Coat by Alexander McQueen, extremely interesting. This coat features a "Bespoke Textile" created as a tribute to McQueen's friend Annabelle. The textile features embroidered words of Edgar Allen Poe's poem "Annabelle Lee" in gold thread!
The fashion designs by McQueen were not only a marvel to gaze upon, but were highly inspirational to me. I love how McQueen played with the shape of silhouettes, added artistic elements, and incorporated many intricate details in his designs. I loved how the fabrics McQueen selected for his collections were luxurious, with his designs often incorporating a mix of texture and color. I also greatly enjoyed the photographs by Ann Ray, who I had not been familiar with previously to this exhibit. Her work was equally inspirational to me. The photographs truly captured a moment in time of fashion history...
A Tailoring Background...
One of the final sections of the exhibit showcased McQueen's tailoring background and expertise, as well as patterns he had drafted, and mock-ups he had created of coats. It might be a surprise to many without sewing knowledge, to see how these fashions are created and constructed! The back wall of this room featured behind the scenes photos of McQueen's fashion shows, while a video played showing footage of McQueen's life.
I found this exhibit to offer such a complete picture of not only McQueen's works, but also of his creative process.
"The Dressing Room" An Interactive Gallery
While concluding the tour of the McQueen/Ray Exhibit, the last room to explore is The Dressing Room, an interactive gallery filled with fashion themed activities for all ages!
I was particularly impressed with this area, since my visit to The Crocker was accompanied by my husband and our two youngest children. Our young girls were delighted by the hands-on activities, including the first one we came upon, a magnetic doll dressing board, where you can create a fashion look for Alexander McQueen himself!
Additional activities included a doll clothing design station, learning basic embroidery stitches, identifying fabrics, matching fabrics, as well as dressing up in real designer fashions, and hitting the runway!
Here are a few photos of my husband and I enjoying the interactive activities with the little ones, it was really fun!
The Crocker: Then and Now
Although the "Rendez-Vous: Lee Alexander McQueen & Ann Ray" Exhibit was temporary, The Crocker Art Museum is a fascinating place, all on its own. The museum is comprised of three buildings joined together, including two 1800's Victorian mansions, once owned by the wealthy Judge Crocker, and a modern 2010 building connected to the back. The Victorian mansions had been used as a residence to the Crocker Family, and an art gallery back in the late 1800's, and then gifted to the City of Sacramento in 1885. The museum is considered the oldest in California, and is now full of amazing collections of fine art, pottery, porcelain, and more.
Check out these lovely photos of The Crocker Art Museum grounds and interior. If you are fascinated by architecture and interior design of the past, as I am, you will see that this museum is a historical dream!
I greatly enjoy any chance I get to visit The Crocker Art Museum, in Sacramento, California, and find it equally enjoyable that this time I was able to take you with me on this blog-tour of The Rendez-Vous: Lee Alexander McQueen & Ann Ray Exhibit, which was absolutely fantastic!
I always enjoy seeing designer fashions in a museum, and I am always on the lookout for these types of exhibits! If you enjoyed this article, check out related articles that I have written in the "Related Links" section below.
Let me know, what was your favorite McQueen design, or Ray photograph from this exhibit, in the comments below!
See you at the next fashion museum exhibit!
4/3/2023 07:59:35 pm
Outstanding tour of the exhibition! Thanks for taking me along!!!!
4/3/2023 08:34:03 pm
What a great article! I need to visit the Crocker museum and see it in person:)
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Hello Readers! Welcome to my Blog! I am Roxanne Rodriguez Rangel, a Fashion Designer from Northern California. I love all things Fashion, particularly historical fashion! Join me, as I take you around Northern California, covering fashion events and related topics!