Alexander McQueen exhibition

It still stings to receive an invite to something as major as Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty – and not be able to go. Sydney to London would be one bitch of a commute, even to revel in the works of the late and great McQueen. 

The exhibition is in celebration of the V&A’s acquisition of 13 photographs by Anne Ray (also known as Anne Deniau). The photographs show the intimate and extraordinary behind the scenes shots of McQueen by Ray, described by Lee Alexander McQueen himself as ‘my life in pictures’. 

McQueen and Ray formed a close friendship in the 1990s and between 1997 and 2010, Ray was granted great freedom to photograph in McQueen’s studio and at his shows with ‘no guidelines’. The resulting photographs capture the frenetic activity of every catwalk show, the intense preparations for each spectacular performance as well as portraits of the designer in reflective and joyous moments. In total Ray shot approximately 35,000 photographs, all on film.

The works acquired by the V&A include a gum bichromate print from 2002, two unique vivid blue cyanotypes from 1998, and 10 gelatin silver prints dating from 1998 to 2010. Three of the photographs have never before been published.

Ann Ray said: “Beyond the true honour and joy it represents for an artist to enter a photography collection like the one of the V&A, I am deeply convinced that it makes so much sense. Lee Alexander McQueen treasured the V&A and enjoyed being there. With these 13 iconic photographs entering the Museum collection, as the Savage Unfallen Angels II, 2009 © Ann Ray Beauty exhibition is about to begin, I just feel that they are at the right place, at the right time. As for the man himself, I knew him well, and I loved him well… Being gifted with his trust, and being keen to do my duty and manage his ‘life in pictures’, I cherish the idea that these photographs made with a fierce passion and full dedication – art for art, indeed – are now at a place that Lee would joyfully approve. I warmly thank the V&A, Claire Wilcox and Susanna Brown in helping me doing what I believe is right. Lee is at home at the V&A. After five years when I missed him every day, I can smile.”

Susanna Brown, V&A Curator of Photographs, said: “Ann Ray’s photographs are filled with poetry, lyricism and drama. Through Ann’s generosity, the V&A has been able to acquire a wonderful selection of photographs spanning Ann and McQueen’s long collaboration. It is particularly exciting to be the first museum in the world to include her work in our permanent collection.”

The photographs are available to view by appointment in the V&A’s Prints and Drawings Study Room. The details of all 13 photographs can be found on the V&A’s online collection database.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, the only major retrospective in Europe of the work of the visionary fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen opens at the V&A on 14 March 2015.




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