God save the Queen, she ain’t no human being / There is no future in England’s dreaming…Do these lyrics sound familiar? If you were a child of the 70s, you’d know all too well they’re from the Sex Pistols’ 1977 track “God Save the Queen.” It was the controversial song’s “No Future” refrain that quickly became the anthem of the punk rock era.
Starting this Thursday on May 9th, the Metropolitan Museum of Art carries that provocative anthem to its Costume Institute exhibition, PUNK: Chaos to Couture, a look into punk’s influence on high fashion.
Rodarte, Vogue, July 2008. Courtesy of the Met. Photo by David Sims.
“Since its origins, punk has had an incendiary influence on fashion,” said curator Andrew Bolton. “Although punk’s democracy stands in opposition to fashion’s autocracy, designers continue to appropriate punk’s aesthetic vocabulary to capture its youthful rebelliousness and aggressive forcefulness.”
From the Sex Pistols to the Ramones to Sid Vicious to Debbie Harry, the PUNK: Chaos to Couture exhibit takes you through a narrative of how these musicians’ anti-establishment ethos sparked a sartorial movement in London and New York, legitimized by designers Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.
Sid Vicious, 1977. Courtesy of the Met. Photo by Dennis Morris.
At Monday’s press preview, Bio got to stroll through the exhibition’s seven galleries, which told the story of punk’s fashion metamporphoses, entitled Hardware, Bricolage, Graffiti and Agitprop, and Destroy. The various rooms were filled with mannequins wearing high-end garbs designed by the likes of Helmut Lang, John Galliano, Franco Moschino, and Alexander McQueen, whose aesthetics were influenced by the era. Each metamorphic stage was accented by a backdrop of grainy video footage of iconic punk rockers like Patti Smith and The Clash.
Our thoughts? Unfortunately, the exhibit left something to be desired. We found that the concept of the show was more of an alluring conversation piece than the show itself. And it was a bit ironic that the D.I.Y. creativity of the punk era didn’t translate into a more original set-up at the Met. The rows of mannequins gave the show a monotonous, manufactured feel and the video loops were a bit cliché. Along with the deficit of art installations, we left shrugging our shoulders.
But regardless of how we felt about the execution, the PUNK exhibit’s story is a significant one for all you culture vultures and fashionistas to consider. Whether you can sense it through the ripped-up jeans, studded S&M leather, or the hole-ridden Jackson Pollock‘d tees, the ‘Do-It-Yourself’ anti-establishment spirit of punk is refreshingly relevant and alive today, considering we’re living in the zeitgeist of the bloggerati and YouTube generation.
Punk: Chaos to Couture is on view at the Met from May 9th to August 14th.