Last night, Christie’s glistened during its preview of the World Chess Hall of Fame’s “A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, Fashion and Chess.” Fashion and art world figures gathered to experience the show, while nibbling hors d’oeuvres. Opening in Saint Louis in October, the exhibit includes designs by Alexander McQueen, Gianfranco Ferré, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gucci, Hussein Chalayan, Iris van Herpen, Maison Martin Margiela, and Viktor & Rolf, among others.
“A Queen Within” explores the role of the queen in chess as well as the way that role takes form in fashion. Sofia Hedman, curator, commented, “[the queen] breaks the rules. She does what she wants on the board.” In this way, the queen is unpredictable, fights, and pushes the boundaries of patriarchy. The queen’s somewhat paradoxical existence as the embodiment of tradition and iconoclasm has, without surprise, proven inspirational to many designers.
Perhaps most intriguing is that the queen embodies so many different characteristics. Psychoanalyst Charles Jung has distilled the persona of the queen into nine common archetypes: Sage, Mother Figure, Magician, Enchantress, Explorer, Ruler, Mother Earth, Heroine and Orphan.
“A Queen Within” plays off of each archetypal narrative while also presenting a historical one, featuring works from the 15th-century, the period during which today’s game of chess was first popularized. Reigning from 1558-1603, Elizabeth I very much represents the shrewdness of the chess queen.
A truly remarkable amalgam of history, art, and fashion, “A Queen Within” is, as Hedman puts it, “an important story to tell” and should not be missed.