For record numbers of viewers in the summer of 2015, Scottishness and Gothic were provocatively juxtaposed in the exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (first staged at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011). McQueen’s collections, Highland Rape (1995) and The Widows of Culloden (2006), while distinct from his more overtly macabre uses of Gothic, dramatise not only a personal family identity but also an interrogative, sometimes confrontational, approach to Scottish history and ‘heritage’ (with all the ironic inflections of that term): ‘I like to challenge history’, McQueen stated in 2008 (Wilcox 2015: 51). The grandeur and poignancy of the exhibition’s staging of pieces from The Widows of Culloden, in particular, invite reflections on where Scottish ‘history’ most strongly emerges as a construct of narrative and design – as something which possesses creative and intellectual coherence but which explicitly opens itself up to question, to ‘challenge’.
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