From the outset, we take full view, stunned senses. The spectator is immersed in a red setting, from the fluffy carpet to the rounded wall where the stars of the exhibition “The Exhibition” merge, sculpturally aligned.[niste]»: A dozen identical stilettos united from the heels to the sole. Red, of course, the sole – carmine is the outward sign of recognition of the Christian Louboutin brand. The exhibition brings together more than 400 shoes and offers a route through eleven rooms of the Museum of the History of Immigration – institution which has also been the subject of a long investigation in Release.
View of the exhibition “Christian Louboutin: the Exhibition[niste]»At the Palais de la Porte Dorée. Photo Marc Domage
The first room, called “Early Years”, shows his inaugural creations. The one in mackerel skin, designed in 1987, brings us back to the tribulations of the Louboutin kid at the tropical aquarium at the Palais de la Porte Dorée. On the walls, magnificent stained-glass windows illuminate the whole of his creation, around eight themes: the Parisian, the show, sewing, art, travel, craftsmanship, sexuality and innovation.
“Dressed in shoes”
In the “Treasure room”, the works are blazing with embroidery or sequins and show off cosmico-glamorous names such as “Jetsun on the moon”. It shines, it screams in the ears (of Maria Callas), it rocks dreams. A show that recalls that Louboutin frequented music halls from the age of 12. He assisted the dancers of the Folies Bergères and, behind the scenes, designed shoes for them. Then he became a landscaper. He got back to his passion by falling one day under the spell of a Parisian local: perfect for a shop, he said to himself. Once rented, he has it “Dressed in shoes”.
The Nudes Degrastrass model. Photo Jean-Vincent Simonet
In the “Nudes” room, the pumps are available in nine shades of flesh. By recognizing the different types of skin, the collection launched in 2013 doubles as a political act. Nudity reaches its climax in the second part, devoted to the imagination of Louboutin and the artists with whom he collaborates. We go through a boudoir of wise appearance. But in a vintage TV, host Stéphane Bern invites you to take a closer look at the carpet and the wallpaper made up of… tiny erotic patterns. This piece sums up the exhibition: playful, polished, popular and educational. Even if it means doing a lot to say what holds in one sentence: the imagination transforms the shoe into a hypersexualized object.
Bondage or decorative arts
As proof, a series of photos with David Lynch. On one, the gaze undresses slippers plunging “Neckline” (we say in the jargon). The two glued heels form the same vertiginous wooden leg. On another, the heel is so high that the phallic ballerina is no longer used to walk but to arouse sadomasochistic fantasies. But all this is only projection, Louboutin points out: when some see references to bondage in the use of nails, he first thinks of the decorative arts and armor of the Middle Ages. He tells it at the very end of the exhibition, in his imaginary museum which mixes queer culture, Bhutanese and contemporary Africa.
Before, the visitor will have crossed the “Pop Corridor”, tunnel of mirrors and photos of celebrities. We see, among other things, the singer Mika seated at a piano in concert, who raises his foot somewhat artificially to show off his red sole – advertising? The quadrangular shoe sculptures that line the route are ideal for instagramers avid for square formats. But after all it is coherent, for an exhibition which celebrates “the Exhibition[niste]».
«Christian Louboutin : l’Exhibition[niste]», Until January 3, 2021 at the Palais de la Porte Dorée, Paris XIIe.