The Wallace Collection presents a Cinderella museum… A glittering archive of Manolo Blahnik, the most famous shoemaker there is, celebrating 50 years of his brand.
There are 160 of his shoes on display at this exhibition, all balanced proudly amongst the 18th- century French artwork and furniture of the Wallace Collection; artwork that Manolo Blahnik has always said inspires him in shoemaking. His shoes sing with flourish and flamboyance in their bell jars beneath sparkling chandeliers from the 10th of June to the 1st of September 2019.
The exhibition is a wonder of shoes adorned with seashells, rosebuds, tassels and frills… And each room reflects a different theme which can be recognised in the paintings on the walls and then in the design of the shoe - both pieces an instrument playing to each other wonderfully. The Wallace Collection is a place of grandeur - the artwork it holds is tremendous and having Blahnik's shoes on display show the fluidity between fashion and art.
We all know from the Cinderella story the importance of shoes and I can remember reading about Candace Bushnell recalling the first pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes she wore when she wrote her first column for ‘Sex and the City’ which would go on to become the HBO series we all know and love.
In an interview with Footwear News in 2018 Bushnell stated “It was the ’90s, and Manolo was a code word that meant super-fashionable and super-stylish, and that’s how it ended up in ‘Sex and the City.’” And he is still…. Super fashionable and super stylish, but also, an icon.
Fashion is what we wear in our lives - it can be an expression of self, it can be a statement of who we’d like to be - even just for the evening or for the day - and it can be forever immortalised as ‘that's what I was wearing when…’ To me, it is no wonder fashion can be so extravagant and have such artistic value when it means so much in our daily lives. And Manolo Blahnik certainly walks that tight rope between fashion and art beautifully.
Highlights are the pastel dream shoes designed for Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film ‘Marie Antoinette’, seen alongside Fragonard’s 'The Swing' (1767) as well as many sketches of his designs, and my favourite shoe - the rose caged boots in pride of place at the top of the grand staircase.
This is an exhibition filled with many layers of artistry and although it is called 'The Enquiring Mind' I could feel the magic in his mind as he takes these timeless paintings and interprets them into shoes. And with Christian Dior’s amazing exhibition just down the road at the V&A this exhibition is sure to be a follow up one, to stay in that dreamy fashion haze of the greats.
The Wallace Collection - Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
Gallery images - Caroline Louise Hamar
Written by Caroline Louise Hamar.