Photographs by Ann Ray depict fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, hard at work. (Photos by Madeline Hager/Carolina News and Reporter)

A new exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art showcases Alexander McQueen’s most notable clothing designs with a series of behind-the-scenes photographs.

The “Rendez-vous” exhibition features 50 of McQueen’s futuristic garments and 60 of photographs by French photographer Ann Ray.

The six galleries take you from the start of McQueen’s career to his death, starting with simple, limited hues and ending in an extravaganza of colors and complexity. McQueen was a British designer and chief designer at Givenchy at the turn of the millennium known for his revolutionary designs.

The mostly black and white photographs contrast with the whimsical patterns of the clothes, combining two different worlds. 

“I think it’s really exciting to get stuff like this here, a very world-renowned fashion designers show in Columbia,” said Rebecca Shepherd of Columbia, who was eager to see McQueen’s designs in real life.

Bill Bodine, who was visiting the exhibit on Tuesday, was struck by how beautifully put together the show is. 

“And it’s a remarkable collection of his high fashion that tells the story of the relationship between the photographer and the designer,” he said.

Nafeesa Ahmed has followed McQueen for the past 15 years. This exhibit was a chance to share her love of McQueen’s work with her young children. She has tried to go to as many of McQueen’s exhibits as she can, most recently, Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011. 

“Life comes full circle, that I can show them this,” Ahmed said. 

Ray’s photos include images of clothing, models and portraits of McQueen at work.

“It’s a different vibe from previous exhibits,” museum-goer Bach Pham said. “I really enjoyed the organization of it and the storytelling. A lot of the past exhibits were kinda just parts and pieces. But it’s really interesting.” 

Jackie Adams, the museum’s director of art and learning, said everything about the installation was intentional, including the presentation of the garments. Some mannequins show the back of a garment instead of the front, and there are no barriers protecting most of the clothes.

“We want you to appreciate those same angles that McQueen was working with when he designed,” Adams said, “We wanted to balance the degree of risk with the opportunity to see these garments up close and personal.” 

Up-close and personal is exactly the effect. Viewers can see the individual stitches, details and patterns of the fabric.

Bodine said this was a personal touch for the museum. 

“It makes you feel like the objects are more accessible if there’s not a wall of plexiglass between you and the costumes,” Bodine said. 

Adams wants museum-goers to know they don’t have to go to New York to get an exhibit like this.

“It’s a great opportunity to have fashion that was done maybe elsewhere, internationally, come a little bit closer to us and be a little bit more accessible,” she said. 

Adams spoke with Simon Ungless, a designer and friend of McQueen’s.

“’I think this exhibition is one of the most authentic exhibitions that you will find to learn about McQueen and learn about Ray because of the way it’s been put together in a narrative,’” she said Ungless told her. 

Bodine wants others to visit the exhibit, which runs through Jan. 21. 

“I hope it brings a lot of people into the museum who might not ordinarily come to the museum, to see something different,” he said. 



A preview of Rendez-vous at the Columbia Museum of Art with Jackie Adams, director of art and learning. 

A closer look at one of Alexander McQueen’s extravagant pieces featuring feathers and nature-inspired details. (Photos by Madeline Hager/Carolina News and Reporter)

A photograph by Ann Ray of supermodel Shalom Harlow from McQueen’s spring 1999 show 

A sampling of McQueen’s designs in the Columbia Museum of Art show