Friday, August 5, 2011

Alexander McQueen's "Savage Beauty" Takes Manhattan + Pizza on the Grill

Alexander McQueen was the greatest fashion designer of his generation, admired by his peers for technical detail and idolized by students of design for his fearless risk-taking. "Lee" McQueen, as his friends called him, committed suicide last year at the age of 40. He once said, “People don’t want to see clothes. They want to see something that fuels the imagination.”

McQueen had been a hit in the fashion world for a while, but his current New York special exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been a block-buster and will go down in history as one of the 20 best loved special exhibitions by attendance in the Museums long and glorious history. The galleries have been mobbed by museum visitors waiting by the hundreds in lines from morning until night. 

The exhibition has been extended twice and, for the last two nights, August 6 and 7, the museum has announced it will stay open until midnight. Over a half a million visitors have walked through the exhibit, many of them with little or no interest in fashion design. Fashion has traditionally been shown in the basement of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then you come upon a show like this, where fashion rises to the level of traditional art.

The fact that “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” has become this broad based block-buster is a true phenomenon, surprising the entire museum world.

Much of the public heard his name for the first time during the Royal Wedding, the gown created for Kate was by designer Sarah Burton of the "Alexander McQueen Studio" which survives him. In the fashion world McQueen was long known as the British provocateur designer, who frequently thumbed his nose at the royal family and who once created pants cut so low that they were nicknamed the bumster (shown). His presentations at fashion shows were just as brilliant, his collections of imaginative clothes were displayed on models cast as inmates in an insane asylum in one and as pieces of a chess set in another. But this show at the Met has taken on a life of its own with hundreds of thousands of people crowding through this show, in a never ending stream - and it is doubtful most knew much about the artist before entering the exhibit. It was just the "IT" thing to do in NYC this summer.

The show is theatrical - at times scary - and it has special effects, including a three-dimensional hologram of Kate Moss. McQueen often complained that, season after season, he showed his clothes to the same 700 people. Year after year the same editors, photographers, writers and buyers lined the runways - that audience certainly changed with this exhibition. But it would be incorrect to suggest McQueen was under appreciated during his lifetime. People clamored to see his shows and the press loved his extreme behavior, yet most friends say he was a very shy man who expressed himself almost exclusively through his designs. In this museum setting his clothes suggest romanticism, conflict between: good and evil; love and sadness; even life and death.
The popularity of the exhibition reflects an interest in McQueen’s work by the younger generation, a generation connected to technology, a technology which also fascinated McQueen and influenced his designs.

The museum has sold over 55,000 copies of the exhibition catalog, at $45 each, at the gift shop alone and museum memberships have doubled during the exhibition as compared to the same period last year.

With this show Alexander McQueen has now gone mainstream, following the royal wedding and the claw-shaped shoes shown off by Lady Gaga. This Met Museum show is in a way McQueen's swan song of a fashion show, but it has certainly taken Manhattan by storm!

(Sources, Metropolitan Museum of Art Press Department, NY Times, Manila Bulletin, Promotional photographs provided through the museum exhibition courtesy of Alexander McQueen Studios, photographer Salve Sundsbo.)


Grilled Margherita Pizza  

  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or julienned
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • Basic pizza dough, rolled out for 2 (12-inch) pizzas
Preheat grill to 400 to 450 degrees F.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine tomatoes, olive oil, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and process until smooth. This is for 2 pizzas.

Divide sauce for the 2 pizzas and when ready smooth the sauce to spread evenly, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges of the pizza. Sprinkle basil leaves on top of sauce and then top with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finally, place mozzarella slices, top with a few basil leaves.

Basic pizza dough — by hand
or buy pre-made dough
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour plus more if necessary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, combine yeast with water, olive oil, salt and stir well to proof. After 5 minutes, add half of the flour and mix well to thoroughly incorporate. Add all remaining flour except 1/2 cup and mix well with your hands. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead dough for at least 5 and up to 7 minutes, adding enough additional flour as necessary to form a smooth and elastic dough. Dough should not be sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled 2 or 3 quart bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, usually at least 1 hour.

Divide dough into 2 portions - for 2 (12-inch) pizzas - and form into balls. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a lightly floured surface, shape as desired and roll out to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Transfer dough to a pizza peel.

How to Grill a Pizza:
With dough ready, topping is ready and grill is at a consistent 400 to 450 degrees F (no hotter than 450), lightly brush the grill with olive oil. Place dough directly onto the grill surface. Close the grill cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. About 2 minutes in, open the grill and pop the air bubbles with a fork.  

Close lid and continue cooking. After a total time of 4 to 5 minutes, remove pizza from grill and place on a work surface with the cooked/grilled side up. The cooked side should be brown with some charred spots but not burned or underdone.

Spread half of the tomato mixture on the pizza, then evenly divide the cheese over the tomato mixture. (You have made enough for 2 pizzas.)

Lower the heat on the grill to medium-low in order to finish, allowing enough time for the cheese to melt without burning the bottom.

Lightly oil the grill once more and carefully place the pizza, tomato/cheese side up, onto the grill.

Close the lid and let it cook slowly for another 5 to 10 minutes. When the cheese is completely melted and the bottom is a nice even brown with some charred spots, remove from the grill to a cutting board, slice and serve.

(For traditional oven cooking, preheat oven to 500 degrees F, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and pre-heat. Bake pizza for about 8 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and edges are golden brown.)

(Source: this recipe was created using, adapting and combining several online sources.)

Until later,
ARTSnFOOD, All rights reserved. Concept & Original Text © Copyright 2011 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

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