Judged either by the vulgar mathematics of marketing or by higher, more refined artistic standards, fashion exhibitions are flourishing. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, a show that ran at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2011, attracted 661,509 visitors, making it one of the 10 most popular attractions in the Met’s 143-year history, right up there with the Treasures of Tutankhamun and the Mona Lisa.
Besides scoring big numbers, the show also ranked high on a scale of aesthetic satisfaction. “It was really about an artist who spoke very emotionally through his work,” says Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, who saw it three times and speaks of it as “the most extraordinary fashion exhibition I’ve seen.”
In 2013, the exhibition boom continues. Steele and her curatorial team tackle an explosive subject with Queer Style, opening at FIT next September. The first major show to explore the gay influence on fashion, it’s been a long time coming, but its arrival this year seems thrillingly on-trend, 2013 having got rolling with an inaugural address in which U.S. President Obama gave a shout-out to Stonewall and a showing of Chanel haute couture that concluded with lesbian brides.
And transgressive seems to be trending. Costumes worn by rock music’s great gender bender are featured in David Bowie is, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (March 23 to July 28).
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