IF THE SHOE FITS: Following last year’s acquisitions of 20th- and 21st-century fashion, the Peabody Essex Museum is continuing to build its reputation for design with this fall’s exhibition: “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain.”
Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the exhibition will make its U.S. debut at this Salem, Mass., museum on Nov. 19. Egyptian sandals with pure gold leaf details and futuristic shoes made on a 3-D printer will be among the 300-plus pairs of shoes in an exhibition that explores the creativity of footwear from around the globe.
The exhibition will showcase shoes for men and women by more than 130 designers and artists, including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Salvatore Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo and Prada. Celebrity seekers will find kicks once worn by David Beckham, Elton John, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Queen, Victoria, Kylie Minogue and Daphne Guinness. And fashion followers may recognize Vivienne Westwood blue platforms that once caused Naomi Campbell to stumble on the runway in 1993. Historians will gravitate to the more historic options like the lotus shoes made for bound feet, 16th-century chopines and men’s shoes with noisy slap-sole shoes that were worn in Europe during the 17th century.
Another area of the exhibition will examine the future of shoe design by spotlighting such styles as the form-pressed Nova shoes designed by Zaha Hadid with an unsupported 6.2-inch heel. Another forward-thinking style is Andreia Chaves’ Invisible Naked shoes that fuse optical illusion with 3-D printing and high-quality leather-making techniques.
Art patrons will be able to take a closer look at designer sketches, embellishments and shoe lasts, such as those created by H. & M. Rayne for Princess Diana. Shoes designed by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior will also be on view. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s unrivaled collection of shoes is complemented by examples from PEM’s collection, which is the largest in the U.S.
Lesser-known local collectors will also have some of their shoes on view. Other ones from Iris Apfel will be exhibited with a few of her styles and the late Bostonian Marilyn Riseman. This fall’s show will be the first time that PEM will display items from Riseman’s collection, which was acquired by PEM in 2014.
Visitors will make their way through the galleries following different themes like Transformation; Status (with subsections All Eyes on Me, Follow Me, The Way You Move and High Society); Seduction; Creation (with subsections Craft & Construction, Explore & Experiment and Supply & Demand), and Obsession. If that seems a little hard to follow, museumgoers will have contextual film clips and videos to help guide them through the various themes.
In what appears to be a new twist on exiting through the gift shop, the PEM Shop will sell more than 80 shoes for men and women, representing 20 designers from 15 countries, including Italy, Germany, Pakistan and Columbia. There will also be several designs commissioned exclusively for the store.