Alexander McQueen’s creative director, Sarah Burton, asked 12 female artists to interpret her pre-fall collection, with intriguing results

Alexander McQueen is known for sending art down the catwalk and elevating the runway to performance art.

Many great examples immediately come to mind: the model Shalom Harlow savagely graffitied by robot arms for Spring 1999, or the micro fashion drop of Spring 2001, the “Voss” collection. For the finale, the glass walls of a huge cube crumbled and shattered. A voluptuous Renaissance supine nude model has been revealed, wearing an advanced mask with breathing tubes and teeming with moths.

The artist and model Guinevere van Seenus. Photo: Ruby Pluhar, courtesy of Alexander MCQueen.

The house’s current creative director, Sarah Burton, has been with the company since 1997. She was head of women when she was tasked with carrying on the founder’s legacy after his untimely death in 2010. But the show grandiosity and transgression are not really his jam. : It lives less in darkness, but art, alchemy and fantasy are still woven into the DNA of the brand and its creations.

For this year’s pre-fall collection, Burton hosted “Process,” inviting 12 female artists to select a look from the collection. They were commissioned to execute a work of art based on how these garments inspired them – a somewhat Warholian, detached but also courageous gesture.

Marcia Kure stands in front of her work.  Photo by Annie Powers, courtesy of Alexander McQueen.

Marcia Kure stands in front of her abstract portrait. Photo: Annie Powers, courtesy of Alexander McQueen.

“We wanted artists to have complete freedom to respond to gazes, creating bold and thought-provoking conversations with their works,” Burton said in a statement. “I hope viewers will be as inspired as we have all been by witnessing these creative processes.”

The resulting works are on display at the brand’s London flagship, alongside the garments that served as muses, until June 21. The list of participating artists includes multi-generational and cross-cultural names such as Bingyi, Judas Companion, Marcela Correa, Ann Cathrin Novembre Høibo, Marcia Michael, Jackie Nickerson and Beverly Semmes. Each interpreted the challenge differently: some moved closer to the source material, others took a different path. Both groups, however, provided interesting results.

Hope Gangloff paints Caitlin MacQueen (in McQueen).  Courtesy of Alexander McQueen.

Hope Gangloff paints Caitlin MacQueen (in McQueen). Courtesy of Alexander McQueen.

At Cristina de Middel’s Housewife of the new servant is an eerie photograph of a disembodied dress. Guinevere van Seenus often worked for the brand as a model. Her burgeoning photography practice is compelling and not just because of her fashion pedigree. She used fashion tropes by “styling” the actual dress in her piece. The melted quagmire of a Jennie Jieun Lee sculpture is a more twisted take on the red leather and black lace dress it commemorates. Nigerian-born, Philadelphia-based multimedia artist Marcia Kure encapsulates a graffiti print in a portrait of Queen Amina of Zaria and arguably enhances the original motif.

A component of great art is the dialogue with the viewer and how it shapes their individual perspective, how it provokes thought and visceral feeling. It’s a testament to the power of Burton’s designs that they have inspired this captivating group exhibit.

‘Process’ can be viewed until 21 June 2022 at Alexander McQueen’s London Flagship, 27 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4QE.

The inspiration from Jennie Jieun Lee's play can be seen in the background.  Courtesy of Alexander McQueen.

The look that inspired Jennie Jieun Lee’s sculpture can be seen in the background. Courtesy of Alexander McQueen.

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