Photos and feature by Staci Layne Wilson
Calling all shoe lovers! (which really means calling everyone who would care to read this) Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe, organized by the Brooklyn Museum, is on tour, and currently closeted at the Palm Springs Art Museum, where it’s showing through December 13, 2015. I had the infinite pleasure of seeing it recently, and I would say it’s definitely worth the walk, even in your highest killer heels.
Merging fashion, film, and material culture, Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe explores the fashion world’s most coveted object, its rich cultural history, and its complex relationships to fantasy, functionality, identity, and power. The exhibition presents more than 110 contemporary high heels and 50 historical designs drawn from designer archives and the Brooklyn Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art’s renowned costume collections.
Organized thematically, Killer Heels examines the high heel as object and cultural signifier. Beyond the archetypal forms—stiletto, wedge, and platform—the emphasis is on designs that play with the sculptural, architectural, and artistic possibilities of the high heel; that use innovative or unexpected materials or techniques; and that push the limits of functionality, wearability, and even conventional beauty, through surprising structure, shape, or height.
The exhibition includes a selection of extraordinary high heels by more than 50 contemporary designers, including Céline, Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, Prada, and United Nude. These shoes are presented in compelling visual dialogues with historical high heels. Examples include elegant eighteenth-century court heels, tiny nineteenth-century Chinese slippers for bound feet, and iconic twentieth-century heel designs by Salvatore Ferragamo, Delman, and Roger Vivier for Christian Dior.
In addition, Killer Heels features six original short films that take the high heel as a central motif. Commissioned for the exhibition, the films explore a range of provocative cultural, social, sexual, ideological and political themes, demonstrating the enormous power of the high heel in the collective imagination. Artists include Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, Steven Klein, Zach Gold, Nick Knight, Marilyn Minter, and Rashaad Newsome.