Alexander McQueen: Art, Beauty, and the Unique Body

Gallery View. Cabinet of Curiosities, Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Speaking Sunday June 19 at 3pm at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is model and athlete Aimee Mullins in conversation with Harold Koda, curator in charge at the Costume Institute. Mullins, who is a double-amputee, has collaborated with a range of artists and designers, including Alexander McQueen as well as Nick Knight and Matthew Barney—who cast her in Cremaster 3 wearing fantastical prosthesis perhaps most notably a pair of non-functional “glass” prosthesis. In 1998, she walked the runway for Givenchy (then designed by McQueen) wearing specially designed hand-carved boots/prosthesis, which are included in the Met exhibition “Savage Beauty.” Much has been written about her collaborations with McQueen, Knight and Barney—and while many, including Mullins herself, interpret as a mean towards greater visibility, others see it as spectacularizing "the disabled body." (These debates are evident in academic writings on the topic, which includes Vivian Sobchack’s and Marquard Smith’s articles in "TheProsthetic Impulse and Caroline Evans’s Fashion at the Edge.)

What has perhaps remained unaddressed and what I think is brought to the fore specifically by her collaboration with McQueen is the way it blurs the lines between medical prosthesis and fashion. This blurring is evident if we think of the history of Western undergarments, such as the corsets (some of which were orthopedic in kind), bustles, or cage crinolines, or more simply extreme high-heels or eyeglasses.


Aimee Mullins, McQueen for Givenchy Show, AW 1998