Manolo Blahnik Takes Vogue Around His New Exhibition At The Wallace Collection
Today the Wallace Collection opens its doors to a new exhibition celebrating the work of the world’s most famous shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik. Set against the backdrop of the stunning 18th-century rooms of the museum at Hertford House, and the masterpieces within them, the exhibition features an enchanting edit of shoe designs from Blahnik’s private archives.
Co-curated by the Wallace Collection director, Dr Xavier Bray, and Manolo Blahnik himself, the exhibition celebrates the iconic designer’s long-standing fascination with the museum, located in the heart of Marylebone, and provides an unprecedented journey through his creative process.
The designer who will celebrate 50 years of his brand next year, has been visiting the museum since he first set up shop. “It’s been donkey’s years!” exclaims Blahnik at a private tour of the exhibition for Vogue, the night before opening. “It was [editor and interior designer] Min Hogg, years ago who told me about this divine house, where you could discover so many beautiful objects. This house is unique in the world. There are eleven Fragonard… England should be jumping for joy to have such a thing here!”
And Fragonard is only the beginning. The Wallace Collection is also home to pieces by Boucher, Rembrandt and Velázquez as well as Boulle furniture and countless other opulent ornaments.
“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to showcase the way in which the Wallace Collection has inspired one of the world’s greatest fashion minds,” Bray explained. “It also enables our audiences to see the collection in a new light and make connections between the many artistic disciplines to be found in the museum.”
Throughout ten magnificent rooms, 160 pairs of shoes are displayed, with each space exploring a particular theme associated with Blahnik’s work, from his varied influences to his constant curiosity and quest for knowledge. Visitors can meander through Blahnik’s creative mind and inspiration, from the Commedia dell’arte and 18th-century Rococo style to his own personal interpretation of Englishness. In fact, his sumptuous shoe designs are so at home amongst the varied artworks surrounding them that Blahnik joked, “You can have them all!” when Bray suggested that they should stay permanently.
Devoted Manolo Blahnik fans may recognise the candyfloss-hued shoes designed for Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film, Marie Antoinette, seen alongside Fragonard’s ‘The Swing’ (c. 1767). Another highlight is the intricate gilding on a pair of shoes reflected in the gold details of André-Charles Boulle’s ornate cabinets and furniture, or the sets of jewelled shoes in a series of vitrines, juxtaposed with the diamond-mounted gold boxes and delicately painted miniatures of the Wallace Collection’s Boudoir Cabinet.
The exhibition will offer a revelatory experience for many guests, whether that is Wallace Collection regulars having the opportunity to learn more about Manolo Blahnik, or fashion aficionados and shoe obsessives having the opportunity to discover the art history inside London’s hidden gem. “Many of my customers are women in their 70s, but now we have the daughters of these women and even the granddaughters too. I hope those granddaughters are going to be coming down to see the exhibition,” Blahnik quipped.
If it was entirely up to him, the designer would have “the shoes in a pile. On the tables and in the fireplaces.” Instead, thankfully, the shoes are displayed in bell jars, protected behind glass, but the exhibition feels particularly intimate and personal.
While the epic Dior exhibition carries on just a few miles away at the V&A, Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection promises something even more lively, compelling and informative, for those in the know. Just make sure to get down soon before everyone finds out about it.