Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fashion Designer McQueen in Exhibit at the Met

Alexander McQueen's fashion designs (right) will be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in May which will add to the ongoing confusion about the difference between art and design once again. Well intentioned but misguided people will tend to make comments that indicate exhibiting something at the Met signifies that it is been elevated to the status of "art".

Even Thomas Campbell, the director of the Met, says of McQueen's fashion designs - "His work fits so easily within the discourse of art. He can be considered no less than an artist whose medium of expression was fashion."

Such comments are meant to praise McQueen's work but simply unwittingly reinforce the prejudicial idea that design is generally a lesser form than art. It reveals the stereotypical attitude that if a designer is really good they might be able to be called an artist thereby implying that other designers are simply failed artists.

Alexander McQueen (left) was a great designer. There is no need to presume to elevate his status by calling him an artist. It is important for people to be clear-headed enough to understand that the Metropolitan Museum of Art displays both art and design. The inclusion of a fashion exhibit in the Met doesn't mean that it is therefore "art" - it is "design". Design can stand on its own and doesn't need to be shored up by unknowingly condescending discussions about whether it "reaches the status of art".

The exhibition will feature over 100 examples of work from the designer's 19-year career, from his 1994 Nihilism collection to his posthumous Angels & Demons collection shown last year. McQueen was found dead in his central London flat on February 11, 2010. He had hanged himself after struggling with depression and the death of his mother.

The exhibition runs from 4 May to 31 July with a gala launch on 2 May.

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