Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has closed. This past Sunday was the exhibit’s final day. According to The New York Times:
“The exhibition attracted more than 650,000 visitors since it opened on May 4, and 15,000 on Saturday [August 6] alone. It is among the 10 most visited shows in the museum’s history, and the most popular special exhibition ever at the Costume Institute, which is housed at the museum.”
Two of my closest friends, Coco the Fashionista, and Ling the Graphics Designer, had already seen it. They both gave it solid rave reviews. The previous Thursday I emailed Milton that I was thinking about doing the unthinkable, forego my usual Sunday power sleeping, and rise at 7 am to get to the Met by 9 am, “Are you interested in joining me?” Milton emailed me back, “I’d do it.”
We were well aware that going on the last day of the final weekend was an act of guaranteed masochism bordering on the certifiably insane, but it would also be a very only-in-New-York-thing-to-do since New Yorkers are veteran line waiters. At this stage in our lives, I am certain that Milton and I have invested the equivalent of at least an entire year of our lives doing nothing more than waiting to enter films, plays, restaurants, exhibits, and standing at box office windows (refer to Lame Adventure 1 for the story of another epic wait). Yet, we did not anticipate when we both arrived early – he at 8:40 and I at 8:45 (the Met opened the doors at 9:30), that the lines leading down from the front of the museum on the 79th Street side as well as the 83rd Street side would both be so monumentally long, reaching so deep inside Central Park, they nearly snaked through the Upper West Side and into the Hudson River. Thousands upon thousands of other people had the same idea as Milton and me. The lines continually grew longer as we inched forward.
As we approached the home stretch of the line in the sweltering heat around 10 am, I noticed two young women toss water bottles into the trash and confer with each other. Mind-reader me knew what they were thinking since I could smell the acrid stench of line crashers. I gave them the hairy eyeball. They got the message and did not attempt to weasel their way in front of us. Instead, they cut right behind us in front of a clueless guy whose head was absorbed in his iPad. I said loudly:
Me: Great, future tax cheats of America right here.
Milton the Wise reasoned: Pretty young girls can get away with this sort of thing, but if we or anyone we know tried to do it we’d all get killed.
Soaked in sweat, we finally entered the museum around 10:40 and purchased our tickets at 10:48 while staring at a sign declaring that the next phase in the wait would be 2 ½ hours. We stared at that sign expressionless until Milton, who was now starving and getting cranky, groused:
Milton: These fuckin’ clothes had better get up and spin.
For interim viewing pleasure the Met had us wait in long lines that snaked through galleries displaying ancient artifacts. We were particularly fond of the Chinese sculptures from the 5th through 8th Centuries. A guard told us that it was okay to photograph the permanent collection. To help Milton take his mind off of his hunger, I handed him my camera and he snapped away.
I occupied my time working on solving the US debt crisis so we can regain our AAA rating. I suggested to Milton:
Me: Maybe if we returned these artifacts to China, they’ll forgive some of our debt?
A tourist standing behind us asked Milton:
Tourist: Are you from out of town? You’re taking so many pictures.
Milton: No. We like taking pictures.
Just as we approached the sign that said we had 30 minutes to go before reaching the McQueen exhibit, we saw a sign warning us that there was no photography beyond that point. Therefore, we did not photograph any of the impressive Auguste Rodin sculptures. Our Tourist-friend bleated:
Tourist: Did you see that sign? Put your camera away!
Milton: We saw the sign. We’ve put the camera away.
Milton’s stomach: ROAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After enduring nearly four hours of waiting, we gained entry into the McQueen exhibit around 12:35 that afternoon. The galleries were so densely packed with visitors it was impossible to see everything. We did notice people taking photographs with their iPhones, and as much as we wanted to follow their lead, we didn’t. Every so often a McQueen-weary guard would erupt:
Guard: No photography, please! Put your camera away!
A number of visitors brought their youngsters. How much can you see in a crowded gallery when you stand barely four feet tall? A little girl tried to grab one of McQueen’s trademark Armadillo shaped shoes and Milton had to control his knee-jerk desire to lunge at her.
The kid’s mom seemed indifferent to her daughter’s antics. This exhibit should have been off-limits to small fry under age ten, but at least strollers were banned. Overall, it was impressively assembled and what we did see of the clothes was in a word, brilliant. Milton and I may be the two least stylish people we know, but we both recognized McQueen’s amazing artistry or as Milton observed, McQueen not only had the daring to go further than other designers, but he had the ability to do so and do it brilliantly. I will never look at a feather* the same way again.
He told stories with each of his collections and his imagination struck me as so vast. How tragic that he was compelled to commit suicide at only 40.
Since we played by the Met’s rules and controlled our impulse to sneak photographs, click this link to see a video that the Met has online of the exhibit.
When we exited the Met an hour later, we saw that the lines were still miles long.
The museum extended their hours to midnight both days of this past weekend. We were glad that we were able to see this show before it closed. It was certainly unlike any other exhibit we’ve ever seen, and one truly worthy of a four hour wait and 5+ hours of standing. Andrew Bolton, the exhibit’s curator, deserves a shout out; he did a great job putting it together.