Home > Events
Show-stopper for shoe lovers
Updated: 2018-08-24 07:30:00
( China Daily )

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, at Taikoo Li, Sanlitun, Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

On July 26, the exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain opened at Taikoo Li, a popular shopping mall in downtown Beijing.

For the exhibition, which was originally held at Victoria and Albert Museum, this is the fourth and last stop in China.

The month-long exhibition, which ends on Sunday, explores how shoes can bring pain and pleasure; and more importantly, how the choice of footwear reflects human and societal behavior.

"It is all about the human relationship with footwear and why shoes-which at their most basic are intended to aid one of our most practical functions-have come to hold such symbolic and aesthetic importance," says Lucia Savi, the research curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition, which features over 140 pairs of shoes from around the world and from as far back as the 1370s, demonstrates to visitors the roles played by shoes across different cultures, occasions and histories.

Shoes displayed at the ongoing exhibition. [Photo provided to China Daily]

For the Asia leg of the exhibition, actress and singer Karen Mok has loaned 14 pairs of shoes from her personal collection, which represent important milestones in her life and career.

Savi says though the original collection of the V&A museum holds around 3,000 pairs of shoes she found that there were few gaps in the collection. So, she then searched for more representative pairs from outside the V&A, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in America.

For the exhibition, the team borrowed a pair of football shoes of David Beckham from the National Football Museum in the British city of Manchester.

She says though she enjoys studying the shoes and is attached to them, there is also the pain of getting rid of some while selecting exhibits.

"It's a pleasurable experience but very tough as well because you want to make sure that you choose the right objects that are going on display as they're not just there to showcase their beauty, but to tell a story."

Shoes displayed at the ongoing exhibition.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The exhibition also looks at why human beings endure the pain of wearing footwear that is not practical or comfortable.

"It's also about manners."

This exhibition is divided into five sections: Transformation, Seduction, Status, Creation and Obsession.

The first section reveals how footwear can change one's destiny and life, using folklore and fairy tales.

Cinderella being an example.

In the story, she leaves behind a glass slipper on the red carpet, and it later becomes the only clue that helps the prince to find her.

The pair of magic shoes is made of Swarovski crystal.

Shoes displayed at the ongoing exhibition.[Photo provided to China Daily]

In the second section, the show focuses on how shoes define sexy in different culture.

Red-feathered mules made in 1999 in London seduce visitors with their rich color and feminine shape; barrette boots, which are made using silk satin, linen and leather in England over 1865-1875, vie for attention with their combination of neutral shape and feminine decorative details, including a golden crossing band and bowknot on the toe cap; the vertiginous geta with heels over 20 center meters high show how an oiran, a high-class prostitute during the Edo period in Japan, attracted attention.

Throughout the centuries and across cultures, footwear has been a way to show social status.

The blue mock-croc Vivienne Westwood platforms took the blame for supermodel Naomi Campbell's fall on a catwalk in Paris.

Such a design shows the courage of people who favor them.

Shoes displayed at the ongoing exhibition.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Bath clogs at 28.5 centimeters high used to be commonly seen in the Ottoman Empire. And they later became a symbol of wealth and status.

In the fourth section, the exhibition also shows how shoes reflect changing tastes.

Here, the Chinese shoe uppers have elaborate embroidery and glass beads stitched on; and there are high heels in baby blue made of silk, silver, wood and decorated with parakeet wings in the same color.

In the last section, the exhibition shows how obsessed people can be with footwear.

Here, there is a big showcase. And all of the shoes and yellow shoe boxes inside belong to a male collector named Lionel Bussey.

Shoes showcased in the Seduction section of the same exhibition.[Photo provided to China Daily]

He collected about 600 pairs of women's shoes from 1914 to the end of his life in 1969.

The shoes all stayed unworn, and some were still boxed up with the receipts.

Speaking about the exhibition, Savi says, "I hope the younger generation will be inspired by these creations and the way they have been displayed."

Contact the writer at xuhaoyu@chinadaily.com.cn

If you go

The Red, Taikoo Li Sanlitun North, Courtyard 19, Sanlitun Road, Sanlitun, Beijing; 10 am to 10 pm daily, through Aug 26; admission is free

Presented by Chinadaily.com.cn Registration Number: 10023870-7
Copyright © Ministry of Culture, P.R.China. All rights reserved