On 11 May 2017, the exhibition Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes representing the oevre of a world famous footwear designer opens in the General Staff building. This show organized by the State Hermitage Museum together with Manolo Blahnik’s Studio (Manolo Blahnik International LTD) with the support of DLT company continues a series of the Hermitage exhibitions devoted to fashion and design.
The display is made up of six thematic sections: Nature, Gala, Art and Architecture, Heart, Geography and Materials. This retrospective of shoes created by Manolo Blahnik over a period of 45 years shows the development of the individual style of the master, as well as the changing tastes of society. Creating such an utilitarian object as a shoe the designer reflects his feeling of beauty, elegance, as well as his idea of the aesthetic ideal. The works of Manolo Blahnik enter a dialogue with art: he is inspired by the collections of world museums, pieces of architecture, as well as by famous and talented people.
The Gala section contains shoes made from the most expensive materials and also footwear that Blahnik created for Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette. Gathered here are shoes with unique shapes, made from exquisite materials, including some decorated with jewels. They give the most striking impression of the boundless imagination of Blahnik, who has made decorative embellishments a characteristic feature of his work.
The models in the Heart (Core) section are devoted to personalities who are important to the designer – Anna Piaggi, Rihanna, Cecil Beaton, Brigitte Bardot, Alexander the Great. Behind each shoe there are particular images or stories founded in recollections and details from favourite books and films.
The Materials section tells about the designer’s atelier and his love of various fabrics. In his works he uses satin, tafetta, velveteen, tweed, cashmere, hand-made lace, wool, linen, cotton, silk brocade and Ottoman silks. Apart from the materials, this section of the exhibition also includes films about the technique of making shoes.
The Geographical Influences section features footwear inspired by Blahnik’s travels around the world and his impressions of Britain, Italy, Japan, Africa, Spain and also Russia, as well as his particular affection for the personality of Catherine the Great.
The Nature section presents a collection of shoes the inspiration for which Blahnik found in the world of flora: he included flowers, strawberries, palm-leaves and cacti in the patterns. The designer equally admires the sea, corals, cliffs and the animal kingdom, notably horses and panthers, whose shapes are reflected in some of his shoes.
The Architecture and Art section contains shoes the inspiration for which came from asrchitectural monuments, literature, the cinema or paintings by Francisco de Zurbaran and Francisco de Goya, Pablo Picassso, Henri Matisse, Mark Rothko and Piet Mondrian, sculptures by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Altogether the exhibition presents more than 200 shoes and 30 original drawings from Manolo Blahnik's archive.
The watercolor and pencil drawings shown in the Hermitage are not just sketches, but independent works of art. Blahnik draws his shoes when the work on them is completely finished. For his sketches, he chooses only a few items from the collection and draws their graphic portraits, in some way creating the idealist version of shoes. The drawings reflect the personality of a talented and sensitive artist who achieves perfection of lines and forms in a clear and gentle rococo manner and uses a bright and bold color palette, never losing a sense of proportion.