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.
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 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.”
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.
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.