This summer, The Wallace Collection presents the enchanting exhibition, ‘An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahník at the Wallace Collection’ in London’s Hertford House.
This exhibition, at the exquisite Wallace Collection, features a personally selected edit of shoe designs from Manolo Blahník’s private archives set amongst the masterpieces of the Wallace Collection.
Art and fashion have always been intrinsically linked, from clothing design to catwalk show art direction, and in this truly magnificent collection, we see Blahník’s stunning creations, an icon from the world of contemporary fashion, juxtaposed with the Wallace’s outstanding collection that has been an inspiration to artists and fashion designers since it opened to the public in 1900.
“Shoes are the quickest way for women to achieve instant metamorphosis”Manolo Blahník
Born in the Canary Islands to a Spanish mother and a Czech father, Manolo Blahník studied languages and art in Geneva before moving to Paris in 1965 where he decided to become a set designer.
On a visit to New York in 1969, Blahník showed his theatre designs to Diana Vreeland, the ex-editor-in-chief of American Vogue, who honed in on his shoes and encouraged him to concentrate on them. It was by visiting factories and talking to machine operators, pattern cutters and technicians that Blahnik learnt the art of making shoes.
In 1970 Blahník opened his first boutique in London’s Chelsea and in 1972 Ossie Clark, then the most famous designer in London, used Blahník’s shoes. The rest as they say, is history.
Blahník is a true artist and craftsman from the beginning illustration and idea, to the shape and heels that he still perfects with his very own hands.
The lines and silhouette of a Manolo Blahník shoe is truly distinctive timeless, classic, to otherworldly and theatrical and remain instantly recognisable as unique, inimitable exercises in precision and balance, exquisite workmanship and luxury.
With a career spanning over 45 years, Manolo Blahník has become one of the world’s most influential shoe designers of all time and his shoes have spellbound an international set of adoring and loyal devotees across the globe.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Manolo Blahník
People walk differently in high heels. Your body sways to a different kind of tempo.Manolo Blahník
One of my favourite things about The Wallace Collection is that it is home to one of my favourite paintings of all time: ‘The Swing’ by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
This painting is considered one of the great masterworks of the Rococo era, a movement that emerged from the Baroque period. The painting depicts a young woman on a tree swing, being pushed by her husband. The young woman is clearly flirting with the young man in the foreground, of whom her husband is unaware.
Fragonard’s painting has gone on to influence many later works, from paintings to sculptures, and even made a way into popular culture. The most recent reference was in the animated feature film ‘Tangled”, created in the style of the painting.
I’ve long loved and admired this painting, in fact, the same goes for many of the gorgeous Fragonard paintings that can be found in this room, but I must admit, looking at this painting in the context of the designs Blahník that sat beneath it made me look at the work in a whole new light. In fact, did you know that Blahník designed the shoes for the Marie Antoinette film?
Suddenly I was looking at every single shoe in the paintings of every single work and noticing just how much detail is always waiting to be discovered in art. Because now I look at it and imagine that this lady’s pink satin shoe is surely an early Manolo, don’t you think?
The Wallace Collection History
“The Wallace Collection has been a point of reference for me since my early days in London. It was – and remains – one of my favourite museums with the most refined selection of art. I am incredibly humbled and honoured to be a part of the project and have my work displayed at the museum.”Manolo Blahník
The Wallace, in the heart of London’s Manchester Square, is the most extraordinary, exquisite collection of paintings and artefacts because it is like a capsule of taste in the 18th and 19th century.
The Wallace Collection was brought together by one family: the Marquesses of Hertford and the illegitimate son of the fourth Marquess, Sir Richard Wallace. Together they bought different things from Renaissance bronzes to Boulle furniture, and it is this diversity that is so reflected in the art and design of Blahník’s shoes.
Blahník has long loved The Wallace Collection, and the connection in the details of creations to the room and setting is so apparent. Even details such as the curves in china and the print, that bloomed into a shoe boot of graphic daisies. It truly illuminates the treasures of the Wallace Collection even more clearly as you stop to pause and discover the connections for yourself.
Overall, I was spellbound and flawed by the opulence and the enchanting way that The Wallace Collection, together with Blahník have so vividly, and so boldly painted the deep connection between art and fashion.
The juxtaposition of seeing Blahník’s magical, enchanting shoes with the old masters’ on display at the Wallace Collection truly presents a classic-on-classic viewing experience that is unforgettable.
In this free exhibition (yes this stunning collection is free) prepare yourself to be deeply enchanted by the treasures in the Wallace Collection, see the details of painting with fresh eyes, and glimpse up, close and personal how masterly Manolo Blahník is.
I truly hope you’ve enjoyed this post and are able to see the exhibition for yourself. If you love the arts and fashion as much as me, you might also enjoy looking at some of my previous museum trips.
How many you adore The Wallace Collection as much as me? And of course Manolo Blahník?
“The greatest luxury is being free.”Manolo Blahník
The Wallace Collection
London W1U 3BN
+44 (0)207 563 9500
Opening Times: Monday – Sunday 10am-5pm