The V&A unveils summer shoe exhibition
London’s iconic V&A museum announced earlier in 2014 that it would be holding an exhibition dedicated to shoes. The exhibition, titled Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, will display items from around the world, spanning over 2000 years, with one of the rarest and most intriguing pieces dating back to Ancient Egypt and decorated in pure gold leaf. The evolution of shoe design, often influenced by contemporary cultural themes will be charted across the collection.
The museum confirmed at the beginning of this month that around 200 pieces would be shown, giving a snapshot of some of the shoes exhibited. Shoes are a necessity which have, through their transformation in design, appeal and influence significantly impacted not just on fashion but wider culture. The shoe has become a status symbol and aspirational item; no better example to demonstrate this is the explosion of interest in Manolo Blahnik’s designs (frequently translated into more affordable interpretations in high street fashion) tied to the success of the Sex and City franchise.
An interpretation of Cinderella’s glass slipper and the famous red ballet pumps from the 1948 film The Red Shoes will be displayed with traditional footwear like the Indian toe-post paduka from the 1800s and 17th century leather chopines.
Alongside historical artefacts, the exhibition will feature the work of 70 contemporary designers synonymous with shoes including Jimmy Choo, Prada and Christian Laboutin, and upcoming British talent Sophia Webster.
Pleasure and Pain is an appropriate title for the exhibition, describing our relationship with shoes. For example, the feel-good aspect of high heels which can be a confidence boost for many is countered by what we tolerate in terms of physical and/or financial pain for beautifully structured shoes. Some years ago, a trend emerged on the plastic surgery scene whereby women were requesting to have their little toes removed so as to ensure a good fit.
The exhibition will lend a fascinating insight into the revolutionary effect footwear has had on culture, and vice versa, charting its development through technology and socio-cultural meaning.
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain will be open to the public at the V&A museum between 13th June 2015 and 31st January 2016.