On June 22, 2015, I attended an exhibition called “Warpaint: Alexander McQueen and Make-Up.” It took place at the London College of Fashion, also known as Fashion Space Gallery, located on 20th John Princes Street. The exhibition focused on Alexander McQueen’s make-up, primarily created for fashion runways and acted as masks. He was a designer from the United Kingdom, who became a prominent figure in a fashion industry for his work at Givenchy and Savage Beauty exhibition. Moreover, he trusted the most renowned make-up artists, including Sharon Dowsett, Peter Philips, Val Garland, and others to develop this theme. The curator of the exhibition, Polona Dolzan, together with a commissioner, Ligaya Salazar, planned and delivered an extensive program. Furthermore, they cooperated with a digital studio, Holition, explored digital make-up, and created app for visitors’ trying a few looks on.
This exhibition was highly-anticipated as at 10 am sharp the gallery was full. Surprisingly, everyone concentrated on the works, stayed put, and kept silence. It was obvious that every single person who attended this event had a taste and passion for make-up and art in general.
I must admit that the exhibition programs were extremely useful, because every single member of the audience could read about the work, make-up artists, and its short history. They gave us a sense of what to expect from the event. Notwithstanding the fact that there were no spoken remarks about the exhibition, people seemed to be familiar with what was going to happen.
The contemporary picture show, including an enormous number of masks wearing make-up, was breathtaking. One of the most impressive presented works was “The Overlook”, by Val Garland. The make-up artist created a silver-white mask, the eyes and brows of which she decorated with glitter and crystals. It partially covered the forehead and nose, and fully eyebrows. When I looked at this mask, it reminded me a horror movie. Even though it was light-colored and glittery, it still made me feel a little bit terrified. I have found out that this image represented the horror movie The Shining by Stanley Kubrick and the Native-American graveyard under the hotel. Moreover, the setting for Alexander McQueen’s show was in a winter style, and the colors of the mask’s make-up reminded me of it.
Another extraordinary work, created by a talented make-up artist, Topolino, was “(Bellmer) La Poupee” (Topolino). Unlike the others works at this exhibition, this one reminded me of a real mask. Topolino decorated it with a silver stripe of make-up that started from temples and spread to the nose. The other parts of the mask’s face looked very natural, especially the eyebrows, which were strongly visible. In 1997, Alexander McQueen decided to fill the catwalk with water during the show, where the models walked. With this performance, he wanted to emphasize that there could be no restrictions in the fashion industry.
Finally, yet importantly, the piece that impressed me most was the one created by a distinguished make-up artist, Val Garland, called “What a Merry-Go-Round” (Garland). Interestingly enough, unlike the other works, this one consisted of six masks, which horrified me. It was my worst nightmare to see a scary, morbid and crying clown. Alexander McQueen used the same make-up looks for his 2001 show, which became of the most iconic ones in his career. Van Garland used a black pencil to create a desired shape for the masks’ lips, making the top one more angular. She also used red lipstick to highlight the inner layer of the lip for one of the masks. However, except for the lips, this mask looked the most natural one.
To conclude with, it was certainly the best exhibition that I have ever attended. It was worth visiting, but the only thing it lacked was music. It would be more thrilling to view masks to the accompaniment of the famous songs. Alexander McQueen has gained an excellent reputation and global pride since the day of the beginning of his fashion career more than 25 years ago. The exhibition was even more thrilling due to the silence, accompanying the overview of the scary masks. The perfect work of experienced and talented make-up artists made a great impression on me. Overall, the exhibition program composed by Polona Dolzan and Ligaya Salazar was unforgettable. It is undoubtedly a great idea that people could visit such a phenomenal event till the end of the summer.