When the Alexander McQueen flagship boutique on Old Bond Street opened in 2019 it was always envisioned as far more than simply a place to sell clothes. From the get-go an entire floor of this prime three-storey retail space was reserved for exhibitions, talks and cultural events, with permanent sculptures by Chilean artist Marcela Correa scattered throughout the rest of the space in homage to the brand’s passion and commitment to the arts.
To mark the launch of its Pre-AW22 womenswear collection, creative director Sarah Burton has taken things one step further, transforming the entire boutique into an immersive art installation named Process. Based on the idea that creative inspiration can spring from many sources, Process sees Burton enlist 12 female artists from around the globe, tasking each with reinterpreting a piece from the Alexander McQueen Pre-AW22 womenswear collection in their own style and preferred medium.
“I wanted to engage in a new creative dialogue with the collection this season and see how the artists interpreted the work that we created in the studio,” explains Burton. “It’s been very interesting to see how creativity has sprung from so many different perspectives, and the outcomes that have been varied and beautiful. We wanted the artists to have total freedom to respond to the looks, creating bold and thought-provoking conversations with their works.”
The result of this freedom is a body of work spanning everything from sculpture and painting to video and mixed-media installations. The aforementioned Marcela Correa, for example, took the hero piece from the collection – a buttercup yellow ruffled corset dress – and transformed it into a series of three-dimensional collages crafted from magazine clippings, epoxy resin and fibreglass, each showcasing a fragmented female face in stark contrast to the sunshine-hued gown it is wearing.
New York-based artist Beverly Semmes, meanwhile, took the same dress and tucked it beneath a vast velvet robe, its skirts frothing out among piles of peach organza, on which sits a life-size replica of a Labrador wearing a collar made from the chain of the original look’s accompanying clutch bag.
The two works of art, both presented alongside their inspiration at the Old Bond Street store, are exemplary of the exhibition’s central premise. That these two artists should start in the same place and arrive at wildly different endpoints, one exploring themes of memory and absence post-pandemic and the other interrogating the female body in culture, is a perfect demonstration of art’s ability to observe and interact with the world while decoding it in disparate ways through the lens of its creator.
Other key creations in the Process exhibition include a strapless crushed silver poly faille dress reimagined alternatively by Guinevere Van Seenus, an American photographer and some time McQueen model, as a series of dynamic monochrome Polaroids embellished with silver beading and by Brazilian artist Cristina de Middel as a video installation examining domestic boundaries, femininity and the move away from traditional notions of the housewife.
Elsewhere, Beijing-based designer and curator Bingyi melded a draped McQueen corset dress with ideas taken from her own Emei Waterfall project to create a paper wedding dress designed to fall away as the bride walks down the aisle, leaving only the house’s underwear-inspired garment remaining at the altar. Accompanied by a man’s suit overlaid with graffiti-style messages of love, the work explores the importance placed on the marriage ritual and how, after the ceremony is over, the couple is left with nothing but each other.
Other artists featured in the exhibition include Ann Cathrin November Høibo, Hope Gangloff, Marcia Kure, Jackie Nickerson, Jennie Jieun Lee, Judas Companion and Marcia Michael, each of whom was hand-picked by Sarah Burton for the synergy between their work and ethos and that of the McQueen house.
Offered as a free exhibition that will be open to the public for a limited time, and aiming in turn to inspire those who visit, Process is accompanied by a 160-page zine delving further into the making of each artwork, which can be picked up at the Old Bond Street store. Culture vultures, don’t miss out.
Process is on now at Alexander McQueen, 27 Old Bond Street, W1S 4QE. Visit alexandermcqueen.com for more information.