Garments and photographs document their shared artistic journey and friendship
The Columbia Museum of Art is pleased to present Lee Alexander McQueen & Ann Ray: Rendez-Vous, a major fashion and photography exhibition on view Saturday, October 7, 2023, through Sunday, January 21, 2024. Curated and organized by Barrett Barrera Projects, Rendez-Vous débuted at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, and will make its second stop at the CMA this fall before continuing its multi-city tour.
“McQueen continues to endure, inspire, and fascinate, and this exhibition gives rare access to be up close to a designer who transcended the world of fashion,” says CMA Director of Art and Learning Jackie Adams. “The intimate portraits Ann Ray captured of her friend reveal genuine moments of the designer’s creativity, strength, vulnerability, and individualism, giving viewers authentic moments of the person versus the persona.”
Lee Alexander McQueen & Ann Ray: Rendez-Vous explores the 13-year friendship and intimate creative collaboration between the late British designer Lee Alexander McQueen — one of the most renowned contemporary fashion designers of our era — and French photographer Ann Ray, whom McQueen personally selected to document his design process and the behind-the-scenes experience of his runway shows.
“You know, it was simple. He was part of my life, we loved each other, I had rendez-vous,” said Ray. McQueen and Ray’s friendship began with a simple agreement in which money, business considerations and fashion had no place. “I like your images but I’m broke. Give me your photos, I’ll give you clothes,” Ray recalls McQueen expressing to her early in their relationship.
The exhibition features more than 60 photographs taken by Ray, reflecting her unique relationship with McQueen between the years of 1997 and 2010, alongside garments McQueen gifted to her over the course of their work together.
Rendez-Vous also features over 50 spectacular McQueen pieces from Barrett Barrera Projects’ collection, the largest private collection of McQueen’s work and owner of Ray’s full McQueen photographic archive. Altogether, these garments, photographs, and corresponding ephemera tell the story of the iconic duo’s intertwined artistic journey and friendship.
“With Columbia being central to fashion-loving cities such as Charleston, Atlanta, Savannah, and Charlotte, Rendez-Vous has great potential to attract visitors regionally, and we’re excited to be a hub for folks from our community and beyond to experience the work of a revered and respected icon of fashion,” says Adams.
About the Artists
Lee Alexander McQueen was born in 1969 to a working-class East London family. At the age of 16, he dropped out of high school to pursue his love of fashion — first as a tailor’s apprentice on Savile Row and later in the prestigious MA Fashion program at Central Saint Martins. In 1993, he founded his eponymous label, which he oversaw until his death in 2010. Between 1996 and 2001, McQueen served as the creative director of the storied Parisian couturier Givenchy, a subsidiary of the luxury conglomerate L.V.M.H. He was awarded British Designer of the Year multiple times, and in 2003 he was awarded the C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. Over the course of his brief 18-year career, McQueen singlehandedly altered the course of modern fashion with his decade-defining silhouettes and expressive runway presentations that combined the conceptual depth of avant-garde performance art with the high glamor of luxury fashion.
Ann Ray is a multidisciplinary French artist, filmmaker, and author. Her professional career began while working for Givenchy in Japan in the 1990s. While living there, she became immersed in Japanese culture and craftsmanship, learning philosophies of creation from senseis in various trades such as ceramics, painting, and kimono design. These relationships had a fundamental impact on her own art and professional life at Givenchy. When she met Lee Alexander McQueen at Givenchy in Paris in 1997, marking the start of their 13-year creative partnership and friendship, the artistic point of view she acquired during her time studying under Japanese masters formed the basis of their early conversations. In the performing arts sphere, Ray works for Opéra Garnier in Paris and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Her work has been exhibited at venues worldwide, including Palais du Tau in Reims, Palais Garnier in Paris, Ca’Pesaro Museum in Venice, the Museum at FIT in New York, and Rencontres d’Arles. Ray’s artworks appear in art collections internationally, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and Fondation Carmignac (Paris). She has published seven books, including Nicolas Le Riche (2008), Love Looks Not with the Eyes (2012), Les Inachevés (2018), and Eyes Shut (2022). Ray works and lives in France between Paris and Brittany.
Lee Alexander McQueen and Ann Ray: Rendes-Vous is organized and produced by Barrett Barrera Projects. Haute Couture Sponsor: Generous anonymous support to celebrate the extraordinary life of Joe Blanchard. Platinum Sponsor: Melissa Blanchard. Gold Sponsors: Joyce and George Hill. Silver Sponsor: Cool Care Heating, Air, Plumbing & Refrigeration. Bronze Sponsors: Governor and Mrs. James H. Hodges; Truist; Barbara B. Boyd. Benefactor Sponsors: Joseph Bruce; Toni Elkins; Sandy and Sam McGuckin. Media Sponsors: Grace Outdoor; WXRY 99.3 FM. Grantors: City of Columbia; Experience Columbia SC; Richland County Government; South Carolina Arts Commission; Discover South Carolina.
About the CMA
The Columbia Museum of Art is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning and community enrichment for all. Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, S.C., the CMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and creative educational programs. At the heart of the CMA and its programs is its collection, which encompasses 7,000 works and spans 5,000 years of art history. Established in 1950, the CMA now welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually and is a catalyst for community creativity and education, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds. It is the recipient of a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education, a National Park Foundation Award, and two Governor’s Awards for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. In order to serve even more audiences, the CMA underwent a transformation. Funded by a successful capital campaign, the two-year renovation project garnered new collection galleries with a progressive thematic layout, new studios for artmaking, cutting-edge program and event spaces, and an entrance on Main Street. Overall, more than 15,000 square feet of functional space were added to the building’s existing footprint. To learn more, visit columbiamuseum.org.
About Barrett Barrera Projects
Barrett Barrera Projects is a cross-disciplinary group of originators who redefine art experiences and push boundaries to explore the continuously expanding spectrum of art forms. At Barrett Barrera Projects we focus on the intersections, because that’s where new ideas and experiences emerge. BBP offers complex exhibition experiences that challenge the traditional boundaries separating art, fashion, design and performance. Our team produces, manages, consults and advises on touring exhibitions, in addition to managing our own exhibition and gallery spaces.