Photography by Matthew Stacey / Words by Stefene Russell
When “Savage Beauty,” a retrospective of the late designer Alexander McQueen’s work, appeared at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011, it drew sellout crowds. Yet few realized the largest private collection of his work resides in St. Louis. It forms the core of “A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, Fashion and Chess,” running October 19 through April 18 at the World Chess Hall of Fame (4652 Maryland, 314-367-9243, worldchesshof.org).
Director Susan Barrett says the initial concept of the exhibit was to re-create McQueen’s spring/summer 2005 show “It’s Only a Game,” where models appeared on a chessboard instead of a runway. Then, with help from Sofia Hedman, the Met’s London archivist for “Savage Beauty,” and assistant curator Kelly Peck, the exhibit evolved, with a broader range of designers (from established labels to experimental designers) and a refined concept. The resulting two-floor show explores the archetype of the queen in nine guises: sage, mother, magician, enchantress, explorer, ruler, Mother Earth, heroine, and orphan. The clothing is presented in environments—almost fairy-tale stage sets—that tell the story of each archetype. “Each chess piece is someone,” Barrett says. “It has a personality and a specific role. We’re all of those pieces.”
“A Queen Within” kicks off October 18 with The Queen’s Gala at Saks Fifth Avenue. An exhibit of photographer Anne Deniau’s prints titled “Of the Mind,” featuring images from her book Love Looks Not With the Eyes: Thirteen Years With Lee Alexander McQueen, opens at Philip Slein Gallery on the prior Wednesday. And on October 19, Washington University will host a fashion panel featuring Hedman and Decades boutique co-owner Cameron Silver.