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Killer Heels: The Art of High High-Heeled Shoes

September 5th – December 13th, 2015
Palm Springs Art Museum

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.

Aperlai, Geisha Lines, Fall 2013, leather, courtesy of Aperlai, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Balenciaga Black Lace Up Heel   For Web
Winde Rienstra, Bamboo Heel, 2012, bamboo, glue, plastic cable ties, courtesy of Winde Rienstra, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Casuccio e Scalera per Loris Azzaro (Italian), Sandal, 1974-79, leather, synthetic material, cotton, The Bata Shoe Museum, P03.0040.AB, (c) 2014 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada
Chau Har Lee, Blade Heel, 2010, Perspex, stainless steel, leather, courtesy of Chau Har Lee, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Christian Louboutin, Metropolis, Fall/Winter 2010-11, calfskin and silver spikes, Courtesy of Christian Louboutin. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Iris van Herpen X United Nude, Beyond Wilderness, 2013, courtesy of United Nude, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Killer Heels For Web
Nicholas Kirkwood, Pumps, Spring/Summer 2013, Suede with gold and clear Swarovski crystals., courtesy of Nicholas Kirkwood, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Noritaka Tatehana, Atom, 2012-13, faux leather, courtesy of Noritaka Tatehana. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Prada, Wedge Sandal, Spring/Summer 2012, Rosso, Bianco, and Nero Leather, courtesy of Prada USA Corp. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Rashaad Newsome, Still from Knot, 2014, video, color, sound, courtesy of the artist
Steven Klein., 2014., Still from Untitled, 791, 2014, video, color, sound; 7 min. 48 sec., Courtesy of Steven Klein Studio. (c) Steven Klein 2014
Chinese, Manchu Woman's Shoe,, 19th century, Cotton, embroidered satin-weave silk, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection, 34.1060a, b. Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum
Walter Steiger, Unicorn Tayss, Spring 2013, courtesy of Walter Steiger, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Zach Gold, Still from Spike, 2014, video, color, sound, courtesy of Zach Gold.
Zaha Hadid X United Nude, NOVA, 2013, chromed vinyl rubber, kid napa leather, fiberglass, courtesy of United Nude, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn

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.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue available for purchase in The Museum Store and Bradford W. Bates Vault: The Museum Design Store.

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe is organized by the Brooklyn Museum.

The Palm Springs Art Museum showing is funded in part by the Contemporary Art Council’s Silver Sponsors Kimberly and Roger Swanson.

Media Sponsor: The Desert Sun

 

Exhibition Season Sponsors: Dorothy Meyerman and Marion and Bob Rosenthal

Public Programs

  • Docent tours will begin in October and continue through December 13, 2015.
  • Explore our reading table with a variety of fashion resources and videos that examine the high heel from a range of perspectives.
  • Browse a design-savvy selection of jewelry, books, and housewares in the Museum Store.
  • On selected dates in the Annenberg Theater, enjoy classic Hollywood, documentary, and independent cinema—all chosen to complement Killer Heels.
  • Witness shoe-making demonstrations with Los Angeles designer Chris Francis on December 10 and 13.
  • *All programs are free of charge with museum admission*