notes + observations + star addresses
SEXIEST FOOT FORWARD
DISCOVERING SHOE DESIGNER CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN'S NEW EXHIBIT
Today I had the privilege of meeting Christian Louboutin and previewing L'Exhibition[niste], a provocative presentation of his works over the last 30 years. Housed in the Palais de la Porte Dorée from February 26 to July 26, 2020, these are the tickets to buy to if you're in Paris for fashion week or, more simply, you just appreciate beautiful things. Here’s a highlight reel of my day...
It was heartwarming to learn that Paris-born Mr. Louboutin used to frequent the Palais de la Porte Dorée as a child, and later as an adolescent. Formerly known as the Museum of African and Oceanic Arts, the impressive Art Deco building left him “wonder-struck.” The introductory text at the beginning of L'Exhibition[niste] tells the story of why this particular venue is even more special:
The exhibit then leads you to the room “Les Premiers Pas” (Early Years) where you see shoes Louboutin created before his iconic red-sole high-heels. Framing the room are eight stained-glass windows, which he designed, that showcase major themes of his career: Parisian Women, Theatre, Couture, Art, Travel, Craft, Sexuality and Innovation.
*FYI. At another fashion exhibit about shoes, entitled, Marche et Démarche: Une histoire de la chaussure (concurrently at the Musée des arts décoratifs, extended until March 22, 2020), I learned that the famous red sole came about in 1992 when “Christian Louboutin took his assistant's nail polish and painted the sole of the shoe he was working on bright red. Since then, red soles have become the visual identity of the brand.” Don't miss this show either.
My favourite room (and probably yours, too) was the “Salle du Trésor” (Treasure Room) whose centrepiece is a giant crystal (synthetic) glass slipper propped on a fairytale pedestal. Surrounding it are Louboutin's most iconic works of art:
The “Couleurs Peau” (Nudes) room was of particular interest to me. Being the daughter of filipino immigrants, my skin-tone didn't quite match the pinkish-white Crayola crayon “flesh.” When Louboutin launched his “Nudes” collection in 2009 to reflect the “colours of humanity,” it was, to me, a huge milestone in multicultural acceptance. I was happy to read that the endeavour had made waves across the planet, and not just in my head.
“L'Atelier” (In the Workshop) explored Louboutin's studio, as well as his creative process, presented in a series of animated films featuring a miniature Christian Louboutin. It’s adorable, and you must take the time to view each one. (I'll post a snippet of one on my Instagram @patriciagajo)
The “Fetish” room was reserved for adults only, so you can imagine where this is going. *Also at Marche et Démarche, I had learned that filmmaker and photographer David Lynch approached Louboutin in 2007 to “create a pair of shoes intended purely for love-making and impossible to walk in. He wished to photograph them in a series of erotic photographs.” Les voilà ! Here’s a teaser...
A biographical timeline of archival photos is also beautifully tied together with a cartoon measuring tape. Here's a peek at the beginning when Christian Louboutin was born. Note the “No Stilettos” sign under “1974.”
During his welcoming message at the media preview, Christian Louboutin insisted that L'Exhibition[niste] was not a retrospective but a celebration. He explained that the exhibition (curated by Olivier Gabet) was divided into two parts, and that the second part was about him indirectly, a glimpse into his inspirations and influences. I found a long corridor filled with sculptures and couture, and shoes by Pierre Hardy and Roger Vivier. I was touched, personally, by this 16th century painting that suggests Louboutin's motivation for creating the Nudes collection.
The Palais de la Porte Dorée isn't as accessible as Paris' other more popular museums, but if, for you, shoes bring cause for celebration, definitely add L'Exhibition[niste] to your must-do list. If you are interested, you could make a day of it, also visiting the aquarium and history of immigration museum, both of which are in the same building.
ONE FINAL NOTE: Should you feel like buying a souvenir, the gift shop has some clever items to take home. If you bypass the book created for the exhibit, why not snag one of these “Granny” plates (89 euros)? You can also go home with your own “Ballerina Ultima” (795 euros for one shoe). You can keep it under the jar, just like The Little Prince does with his Rose. You'll need to buy two, however, if you wish to do a little photoshoot of your own.
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