"An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik" exhibition at the Wallace Collection

Posted on August 18, 2019 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

One might expect museums like V & A or the Design Museum to dedicate an exhibition on the world’s most famous shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik. Yet the "An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik" exhibition opened at The Wallace Collection, a smaller and less well-known museum converted from an opulent 18th century former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford behind the busy Oxford Street. This pairing, turns out to be perfect. Co-curated by Wallace Collection's Director Dr Xavier Bray and Manolo Blahnik himself, 160 of his designs are displayed across 10 rooms alongside the masterpieces at the museum, and they look very at home here.

 

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

The exhibition brought back memories for me – it reminded me of my first visit to Blahnik's small London boutique off Kings Road when I was still a student. This was in the early 90s, before he became the superstar shoe designer (thanks to the TV show 'Sex and the City'). Back then, Blahnik was already famous within the fashion industry, and popular among socialites and Royalty like Princess Diana, but it was not yet a household name. My cousin and her friend were studying architecture at the AA, and they were big fans of Blahnik's designs, notably his high heels. I went to the boutique with them and watched them try on boots and pumps that were 3 or more inches high for over an hour (we were the only people there). I was a bit of a Tomboy then, and I fathomed why anyone would want to torture themselves by wearing these high heels.

Eventually, my cousin did return to buy a pair of high heeled boots after long 'consideration', but she worn them once and then complained that they were too high and she struggled to walk in them! It was then I realised that people are possessed by beauty, so much so that practicality can be thrown out of the window sometimes. Beauty is power.

 

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

Wandering around the museum, it was apparent that many of Blahnik's designs were inspired by art. His shoes interweave art, design and craftsmanship, hence they do not look out of place among the 18th century paintings and furniture.

Overall, I think the interactive display works well at this exhibition. Though sometimes I found it hard to focus due to the glittery decor esp. in the Rococo style rooms, I did get used to it after some time. In my opinion, the display inside the Budoir Cabinet is one of the most harmonious one.

 

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

Although I am still not a fan of high heels, I do appreciate its beauty and underlying power. After spending many years dancing Argentine tango whilst wearing dance shoes with heels that are more than 7.5 cm high, I learned to endure the pain for the sake of beauty, posture, and an air of confidence that is seemingly linked to the heels. My foot pain has stoped me from danicng now, but I would not forget how the heels made me feel on the dance floor.

 

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

Manolo Blahnik is not only a master craftsman and designer, he also understands women's desires. Blahnik's shoes are not designed for practicality (you can choose to wear Crocs instead), rather they embody beauty, seduction, power, desires and fantasies. Hence, even though mass-produced trainers/sneakers continue to dominate the footwear industry, Manolo Blahnik's delicate and feminine designs will always endure and remain the objects of desire in many women's hearts.

 


This post was posted in London, Exhibitions, British design, Fashion, Contemporary craft, Design and was tagged with art and design exhibitions, fashion, British design, contemporary crafts, Manolo Blahnik, shoes, Wallace Collection

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