Chau Har Lee. “Blade Heel,” 2010. Perspex, stainless steel, leather. Courtesy of Chau Har Lee. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Noritaka Tatehana. “Atom,” 2012–13. Faux leather. Courtesy of Noritaka Tatehana. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Winde Rienstra. “Bamboo Heel,” 2012. Bamboo, glue, plastic cable ties. Courtesy of Winde Rienstra. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Iris van Herpen X United Nude. “Beyond Wilderness,” 2013. Courtesy of United Nude. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
“Killer Heels,” a new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, traverses the decades from the 17th century up to now, displaying iconic shoes such as Marilyn Monroe’s stilettos alongside modern 3D-printed heels by designer Iris van Herpen. Needless to say, these heels put the “haute” in “haute couture,” one of them featuring 8-inch stilettos that forces the wearer on her toes. Another, a pair of Manchu platform shoes, look almost like jeweled music boxes set on pedestals.
Over the years, high heels have become a complex and controversial symbol, by turns fetishized and reviled. To explore this complexity, the 160 pairs in the exhibit are diverse. On the classical end of the spectrum, French shoes from the late 17th century are modest, with muted colors and crafted from silk and leather. Some heels are more whimsical, like the bright red “Eamz” by Rem D. Koolhaas, which brings to mind the plush vinyl of stools at a soda fountain. The Block Heel from Balenciaga strikes a more classic pose, looking infinitely wearable next to the elegant but tortured lines of Walter Steiger’s “Unicorn Tayss.”
According to Lisa Small, who organized and curated the exhibit, the heels are “difficult aesthetically or meant to be making different kinds of statements rather than the prototypical sexy stiletto.”
Killer Heels elevates the high heel to something more than an accessory. Museum-goers will contemplate its cultural identity, form, and function. They will marvel at the various incarnations from pump to peeptoe. And, upon leaving the exhibit, they will breathe a sigh of relief and thank the powers that be for the invention of the humble sneaker.
The exhibit will be on display until February 15, 2015. Visit the Brooklyn Museum online for directions and details regarding admission and museum hours.
Zaha Hadid X United Nude. “NOVA,” 2013. Chromed vinyl rubber, kid napa leather, fiberglass. Courtesy of United Nude. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn. Chromed vinyl rubber, kid napa leather, fiberglass. Courtesy of United Nude. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Walter Steiger. “Unicorn Tayss,” Spring 2013. Courtesy of Walter Steiger. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Rem D. Koolhaas. “Eamz,” 2004. Courtesy of United Nude. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Roger Vivier. “Virgule Houndstooth,” Fall 2014. Calf hair. Courtesy of Roger Vivier, Paris. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
JANTAMINIAU. “L’Image Tranquille,” 2013. (Handcrafted by René van den Bezrg.) Courtesy of JANTAMINIAU. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Prada. Wedge Sandal in Rosso, Bianco, and Nero Leather, Spring/Summer 2012. Courtesy of Prada USA Corp. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Vivienne Westwood. “Super Elevated Gillie,” 1993. Courtesy of Vivienne Westwood. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
French. Shoes, 1690 – 700. Silk, leather. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1906 (06.1344a, b). Image copyright ?The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY
Christian Louboutin. “Metropolis,” Fall/Winter 2010–11. Calfskin and silver spikes. Courtesy of Christian Louboutin. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Aperlaï. “Geisha Lines,” Fall 2013. Leather. Courtesy of Aperlaï. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn
Balenciaga. Block Heel, Spring 2013. Courtesy of Marie-Amélie Sauvé. Brooklyn Museum photograph, Sarah DeSantis, photographer