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V&A Shoe Exhibit Mixes Pleasure with Pain

Few pieces of clothing have the ability to incite the lust, passion and agony as shoes, and now London’s V&A museum for Art & Design is exploring why with their upcoming exhibit simply titled, Shoes: Pleasure & Pain. The exhibit will explore the love affair that people have with extreme footwear and reveal the various ideals that are placed on what we wear on our feet and the obsession it can create.

Over 200 pairs of shoes from more than 70 noted fashion houses, spanning over 2000 years, will be on display, including Egyptian sandals coated in pure gold leaf, 16th century European chopines and shoes designed using 3D printing. Prominent shoes like the infamous blue heels that supermodel Naomi Campbell wore (and took a tumble in) during the 1993 Vivienne Westwood fashion show, as well as the ballet slippers designed for Moira Shearer in the classic film, The Red Shoes, will also be on display.

Helen Persson, Shoes: Pleasure & Pain curator, said, “Shoes are one of the most telling aspects of dress. Beautiful, sculptural objects, they are also powerful indicators of gender, status, identity, taste and even sexual preference. Our choice in shoes can help project an image of who we want to be.”

To plan the exhibit, Persson went into the closets of both private owners and international collections for exquisite shoes. Covering two floors, the first level will be used to explore the three themes: transformation, status, and seduction. Transformation will be dedicated to shoes brought to life from fairytales and legends. Status showcases shoes that speak of privilege and how the person is viewed in society. It will also present the transformation in shoe design, from the influence of European royal courts to now famous shoe designers like Alexander McQueen. Seduction will reveal exactly that——how shoes have been and are still used as a means of sexual expression and empowerment.

Other sections of Shoes: Pleasure & Pain will include design sketches and materials, the future of shoe design including Andreia Chaves’ ‘Invisible Naked’ shoe, the production and consumption of shoes over time, and considering shoes as collectibles.

The exhibition, supported by Clarks, Agent Provocateur and the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, will be on display at V&A starting the summer of 2015, with future dates at other museum locations in the works.