Palm Springs Art Museum will open the highly anticipated exhibition Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe on Sept. 5, which will be on view through Dec. 13, 2015. The exhibition merges fashion, film, and material culture, while exploring the fashion world’s most coveted object, its rich cultural history, and its complex relationships to fantasy, functionality, identity and power.
Organized thematically, Killer Heels features more than 110 contemporary high heels and 50 historical designs drawn from designer archives, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s renowned costume collections. 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 using innovative or unexpected materials or techniques; and that push the limits of functionality, wearability, and even conventional beauty, through surprising structure, shape, or height.
Presented in arched pedestals the heels will be exhibited in six themes throughout open pathways of the gallery housing the exhibition. The themes are “Revival and Reinterpretation,” “Rising in the East,” “Glamour and Fetish,” “Architecture,” “Metamorphosis,” and “Space Walk.” Spanning the 17th century to the present, each of the themes reflects the design of the shoes, shifting fashion trends, social preferences, and surprising formal similarities across cultures and time.
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 exquisite 18th century court heels, tiny 19th century Chinese slippers for bound feet, and iconic 20th 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 Farknondeh, 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 Kimberly and Roger Swanson, and Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler.