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An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik in London pays homage to the legendary designer

This exhibition at The Wallace Collection juxtaposes works of iconic footwear designer, Manolo Blahnik, with world-renowned paintings in the gallery’s 18th century rooms.

by STIRworld Aug 24, 2019

There’s little doubt that the legendary designer, Manolo Blahnik, is a big fan of The Wallace Collection. An intimate treasure house of artistic excellence spanning over 800 years, it has been a source of inspiration for Blahnik for more than 20 years. With a keen eye and an artist’s aptitude for detail, he has, over the years, drawn inspiration from The Wallace Collection’s paintings, furniture, porcelain and works of art. And it is this display of unrivalled, 18th century collections, that the galleries form a perfect, sympathetic backdrop for a carefully curated collection of Blahnik’s shoes.

  • With a career spanning almost 50 years, Manolo Blahnik is one of the world’s most influential footwear designers| An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik| The Wallace Collection| STIR
    With a career spanning almost 50 years, Manolo Blahnik is one of the world’s most influential footwear designers Image Credit: David Hughes
  • Dr Xavier Bray, Director of The Wallace Collection| An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik| The Wallace Collection| STIR
    Dr Xavier Bray, Director of The Wallace Collection Image Credit: Julian Calder

Co-curated by Wallace Collection Director, Dr Xavier Bray, and Manolo Blahnik himself, the partnership celebrates the renowned designer’s long-held fascination with The Wallace Collection and provides an unprecedented exploration of his creative process. “This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to showcase the way in which the Wallace Collection has inspired one of the world’s greatest fashion minds. It also enables our audiences to see the collection in a new light and make connections between the many artistic disciplines to be found in the museum.”

The exhibition showcases more than 150 of Manolo Blahnik’s exquisite designs alongside artworks including Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 1767 iconic The Swing painting| An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik| The Wallace Collection| STIR
The exhibition showcases more than 150 of Manolo Blahnik’s exquisite designs alongside artworks including Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 1767 iconic The Swing painting Image Credit: Courtesy of The Wallace Collection

The exhibition places Blahnik’s exquisite designs in the intimate context of the Wallace Collection alongside the paintings, sculpture and furniture that inspired his enquiring mind, leading to a dialogue between the old and the new, the art and the craft, the real and the fantasy. Blahnik says, “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.”

  • The Wallace Collection’s exquisite fêtes galantes by Watteau, Lancret and Pater reflect an 18th century fascination for theatre and spectacle and the light hearted shoes by Blahnik evoke the bright costumes of Commedia dell’Arte| An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik| The Wallace Collection| STIR
    The Wallace Collection’s exquisite fêtes galantes by Watteau, Lancret and Pater reflect an 18th century fascination for theatre and spectacle and the light hearted shoes by Blahnik evoke the bright costumes of Commedia dell’Arte Image Credit: Courtesy of The Wallace Collection
  • Against the drama of Velazquez’s Lady with a fan, Ruben’s Rainbow Landscape and Hal’s Laughing Cavalier sit some of Blahnik’s most iconic productions| An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik| The Wallace Collection| STIR
    Against the drama of Velazquez’s Lady with a fan, Ruben’s Rainbow Landscape and Hal’s Laughing Cavalier sit some of Blahnik’s most iconic productions Image Credit: Courtesy of The Wallace Collection

Each room explores a particular theme associated with Blahnik’s work, demonstrating his thirst for knowledge and the wide ranging influences upon his designs. Visitors are taken on a journey through Blahnik’s imagination, spanning the theatre and spectacle of the Commedia dell’arte, the fashions inspired by Blahnik’s native Spain, 18th-century Rococo style, his own personal interpretation of Englishness and much more. The full diversity of Blahnik’s work is on display, from the candy-coloured shoes designed for Sofia Coppola’s award-winning film, Marie Antoinette, seen here alongside Fragonard’s Swing and Boucher’s Mme de Pompadour, to his carefully worked, jewel- encrusted shoes which reflect the diamond-mounted gold boxes and delicately painted miniatures of the Wallace Collection’s Boudoir Cabinet.

In the hall, the sumptuous Parissa is juxtaposed with The Wallace Collections’ historic balustrade and ruby carpeted staircase, on the landing, the delicate Trellis sits amidst lush Boucher scenes evoking the artist’s palette and affection for nature| An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik| The Wallace Collection| STIR
In the hall, the sumptuous Parissa is juxtaposed with The Wallace Collections’ historic balustrade and ruby carpeted staircase, on the landing, the delicate Trellis sits amidst lush Boucher scenes evoking the artist’s palette and affection for nature Image Credit: Courtesy of The Wallace Collection

Both Blahnik’s designs and the works of art with which they are interspersed reflect a commitment to the highest levels of artistry and craftsmanship. Just as the founders of the Wallace Collection sought to acquire the most beautiful, the most captivating and the most precious, Blahnik also seeks to produce shoes of refined quality and elegance. It is indeed a rare opportunity to see excellence in contemporary design alongside exceptional works of art.

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STIRworld

STIRworld

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