Seeing and Perceiving Alexander McQueen

There’s no doubt about it, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was the most amazing, awe-inspiring, and entertaining exhibition of the summer. But I’ll remember it for an additional reason. During my visit, I eavesdropped on a docent speaking at great length to a woman wearing sunglasses. The docent was extremely articulate and thorough in her description of each item the pair stood in front of. At first I thought that the woman in dark glasses was a dignitary or an important museum donor, but after listening in for a couple more rooms, I realized that the woman could not see the show: She was blind. I kept wondering what images this sightless  woman was creating in her mind, based on her companion’s careful, poetic, and impassioned descriptions of McQueen’s extraordinary creations. And what would the experience be like for a sighted person like me–who can see well enough, but doesn’t always perceive–to be blindfolded and guided through the exhibition by verbal description alone? Would I not only hear but but also understand? It was an awesome and inspiring morning at the Met.

Alexander McQueen from the VOSS collection spring/summer 2001

A jacket and hat of pink and gray wool bird’s-eye embroidered with silk thread and decorated with Amaranthus, by Alexander McQueen from his VOSS  collection, spring/summer 2001, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø/Art + Commerce.