Manolo Blahnik’s 'An Enquiring Mind' opens in the Wallace Collection
“After seeing my creations installed here, I think maybe I should take up painting,” quipped Manolo Blahnik, at the opening of his path-breaking exhibition 'An Enquiring Mind' inside the Wallace Collection.
Historically, one of the great private collections of late Renaissance art in western Europe, the grand setting seemed an ideal location for a retrospective on Blahnik; one of the half-dozen greatest shoemakers ever to have worked in fashion.
The exhibition is, in effect, a dialogue between Blahnik’s footwear and the fine art in this rare collection that inspired him. This rare concept show is also a great reason to visit the somewhat forgotten Wallace Collection, which must rank as one of the top 100 museums in the world.
“This place is more like a second home to me than a museum. I know every single painting intimately and many of them have inspired the very shoes you now see before them,” said a somewhat overwhelmed Blahnik in a short speech, inside the Great Gallery on Monday night.
Hence, 160 of Blahnik’s shoes are placed in glass chambers – the sort where one normally expects to find stuffed birds. The exhibition is co-curated with Dr. Xavier Bray, director of the Wallace Collection, who carefully positioned scores of Blahnik’s most famous creations inside the 18th-century rooms of Hertford House, a massive neoclassical mansion in Marylebone.
The art is quite truly remarkable; from the 11 paintings by Fragonard; an incredible room full of fantastic vistas of Venice by Canaletto; a half-dozen works by Rembrandt including two self-portraits and a magnificent oil of his son Titus; Rubens, Titian, Velázquez. You name it, quite frankly.
Blahnik, who celebrates 50 years in the business this year, has clearly been highly influenced by the collection, and for a very long time.
The shoes are themed into a series of ideas reflecting the art and furniture of key rooms; from Commedia dell’arte and High Baroque, to Connoisseurs and Collectors and Love and Passion.
“It’s really a unique opportunity to place the work of a great creator like Manolo in the perfect context. The every works of art that set off his rich imagination. Plus, for any visitor, it presents the collection in a very different and unexpected light,” commented Dr. Bray.
Moviegoers will love the juxtaposition of his sherbet-hued shoes from Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film, 'Marie Antoinette', placed in front of several beautiful Fragonards. While in the Great Gallery, one marvelous fan-shaped pair of suede boots seem to mimic the shape of a huge hat worn by the Laughing Cavalier in Frans Hal’s famous portrait.
A section entitled Opulence, in a room know as Boudoir - noted for its unique collection of diamond-mounted gold boxes - is a fitting location for some crystal-encrusted delicate shoes; the sort which graced the great runway shows of John Galliano when he was in his pomp at Christian Dior.
“The thing about Manolo is he just goes for it. He operates without fear and with great taste. We all admire him,” said fellow shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood, who joined a large gang of several hundred fans to salute Blahnik with flutes of champagne at the opening.
'An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik' runs from June 10 to September 1, 2019 at the Wallace Collection.
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