Cabinet of Curiosities

Savage Beauty exhibition

Savage Beauty exhibition


June 01 2015

The Cabinet of Curiosities had it’s origins in the sixteenth century. Reflecting the intellectual curiosity of the age, it contained collections of extraordinary objects. These cabinets were actually rooms and not pieces of furniture as we have come to know them. They contained wondrous specimens often from the natural world, mythical creatures, man made items, exotic examples of objects that many had never seen before and which diverged from the norm. They fascinated and excited audiences and testified to a new culture of collecting. They also led to museums as we know them today – museums such as the V&A in London.

The Cabinet of Curiosities, at the current Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A, gives us a 21st century glimpse into the wondrous, fascinating and extreme world of Alexander McQueen. This double-height room, at the centre of the exhibition, is filled to capacity on all four sides. It is exciting, emotional, intense, visceral and oppressive. There are headpieces, feathers, suits of amour, shoes, collaborations with Shaun Leane and Philip Treacy, video screens, noise.

Susy Menkes, writing in Vogue, called it ‘the bleeding heart of the exhibition’. It is a perfect description for a perfect exhibition. It doesn’t matter if fashion is not your thing. Savage Beauty is for everyone. It runs at the V&A until August 2nd.


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Frances McDonald