Australia’s first unveiling of Alexander McQueen


In June 1996 the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) began collecting work by fashion designer Alexander McQueen. This was the early days of McQueen’s prolific career: he was yet to be awarded Designer of the Year in 1996 and 1997 by the British Fashion Council, and unexpectedly succeed John Galliano as head designer at Givenchy. Until McQueen’s untimely death in 2010, the NGV amassed one of the most significant collections of the designer’s work—which is now being revealed.

It wasn’t just McQueen’s working-class background and unconventional entry into the fashion world that disturbed critics. It was his unapologetic response to the polarising reactions his theatrical and subversive runway shows caused. McQueen appeared unfazed by the controversy. According to McQueen himself: “I use things that people want to hide in their heads. War, religion, sex; things we all think about, but don’t bring to the forefront. But I do and I force them to watch it.”

Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse is the first major Australian exhibition of the designer’s work. Yet as Katie Somerville, NGV’s senior curator for fashion and textiles, explains, while this exhibition includes over 120 of McQueen’s fashion pieces, accessories and designs, it’s not a retrospective.

Arranged thematically, McQueen’s work will be exhibited alongside historical artworks that informed his practice. This approach allows us “valuable insights into his technical and creative process and innate capacity for immersive storytelling”, says Somerville.

And this story is 25 years of one designer’s work. “During his career, McQueen sampled a multitude of ideas, bringing together seemingly disparate influences, to create collections that pushed far beyond the bounds of conventional fashion design.”

Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse
National Gallery of Victoria
11 December—16 April 2023

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Autumn Royal