Tim Burton & Alexander McQueen

July 25, 2011

Earlier this month I was in New York and had the chance to view the Met’s exhibition, Savage Beauty, on the late designer Alexander McQueen. I found myself incredibly moved—holding back tears, even—as I took in one extraordinary work after another. (I was glad to discover that I wasn’t the only one who had such an emotional response to the show). It was almost too overwhelming to enter so much of McQueen’s mind, and delve into his world, which seemingly has no boundaries in the expression of beauty. It didn’t surprise me then to come upon a piece in the show that was inspired by an equally imaginative artist, who happens to currently be on view at LACMA. In front of me was a black silk billowing ensemble from the collection that, in McQueen’s words, “was inspired by Tim Burton. It started off dark and then got more romantic as it went along.”

McQueen, Ensemble (via Style.com)

Alexander McQueen, Ensemble, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, autumn/winter 2002–03, image via Style.com

McQueen’s connection to Burton extends beyond this collection (aptly named Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious); Burton also created drawings for one of McQueen’s collections.  As I further considered both artists though, it wasn’t difficult to draw even more parallels between the two.

Both McQueen and Burton began creating works at an early age and attended schools to learn and train for their respective fields. Many are surprised to learn that Burton is a Burbank High School alumnus, and impressed to see the breadth of creativity during his youth.

Burton (early work 1)

Installation view of Tim Burton exhibition, gallery displaying Burton's early work

Both artists have achieved international acclaim for prolific careers established upon a recognizably unique form of expression—equally described as Gothic and romantic. They have each found inspiration in literary sources, including Edgar Allen Poe and the Brothers Grimm; McQueen stated that “life…is a bit of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale,” while Burton created a Japanese-themed twist on Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel for his first live-action production. Each possesses a singular vision and aesthetic, though both Burton and McQueen have embraced storytelling in their work with narratives that are often autobiographical and/or inspired by the world around them.

Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas)

Installation view of Tim Burton exhibition galleries, showing models from The Corpse Bride

McQueen, Gallery View (Left)

Installation view of Alexander McQueen exhibition, "Romantic Nationalism" gallery

Christine Choi, Communications Manager