Happy Sunday evening my lovely readers! I hope you are doing well, here in the UK and abroad or away on holiday? It feels like such a long time that we haven’t spoken and it’s only a week! It looks as though a long time has passed, when it’s only been a few days! This week was a bit weird to me, as I was sick for two days and had to stay at home. Can you imagine staying at home for two days looking at the four walls of your room? Granted it’s only 3, as the fourth wall is floor to ceiling windows, but you get my point! I certainly felt so happy to get back into work on Friday!
I realise though that my working week is not why you all turn up week after week to read my blog; it is rather all about my experiences in London and for this week, I’m going to give you one that will surely make you green with envy! I don’t know how many of you have the opportunity or luck to listen to a living, breathing true master, but last week I had that incredible time at a well-known London museum, the Wallace Collection. In there you can find a most amazing exhibition, that of Manolo Blahnik, titled An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection!
I was lucky to visit a week after opening, at an exclusive after hours view of the exhibition and entry to a panel discussion about Goya and shoes. It may sound not that exciting, however the panel discussion included the Master himself! Yes, indeed Manolo Blahnik was present, along with the director of the Wallace Collection, Dr Xavier Bray, the former chief curator of the Prado Museum, Dr Manuela Mena Marques (who rightly informed us that not all Spanish people are named Manuel and Manuela!) and Dr Aileen Ribeiro, a fashion historian. But more about the discussion later.
As you enter the Wallace Collection, the first thing you will notice is the incredible exhibits and this beautiful staircase, leading you to the first floor and the main galleries, which have been a constant inspiration for Manolo Blahnik as an artist. Apart from creating shoes that have graced the feet of Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City or Kirsten Dunst’s on the set of Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola, Manolo Blahnik shoes are literally works of art, inspired by his study of masters of art, such as Francisco Goya and others. This is evident in his work, because of his lifelong passions in literature and art as well.
The Wallace Collection is the perfect backdrop to feature some Manolo’s most recognisable designs, such as the Trellis sandals or his Lepanto booties. You can easily see the different styles that Manolo Blahnik has played with during his whole career, styles that were inspired by different cultural periods, from Commedia dell’Arte to the romantics and from baroque to neoclassicism of the late 18th century. The visitor can even see the influence of Gainsborough and Reynolds and traditional British pastimes, such as country walks and hunts, in the work of Manolo Blahnik and his interpretation of “Britishness”.
After my hour-long tour of the exhibition, I made my way downstairs, where the panel discussion was due to start. I can tell you that it was interesting (or rather the speakers made it interesting) and entertaining. We found several of Manolo’s favourite paintings of Goya and even learnt about his fascination with Francisco Goya and that he is heavily inspired by the artist and his paintings and graphics. Just from an hour discussion, I got the impression that Manolo Blahnik is a highly educated person and his love of art really shines through! He is not a “diva”; he is rather approachable, has a nice sense of humour and is an incredibly warm person. Can you imagine that after the discussion, people came to him and talked with him, and he was standing there, talking to all of them, signed some autographs and a lady even showed her trellis sandals to him?
Right now, I am feeling an extraordinary honour meeting him and in love with his designs even more. I believe, after visiting this exhibition, that his shoes are not only a sign of opulence and high fashion, rather an embodiment of high art. Only if you approach them from this perspective, you can understand that Manolo Blahnik’s creations surely belong to a museum and not a high-end department store! They are little, unique works of art in a world that is dominated with mass production and little sense.
In my view, “An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection” is definitely worth a visit. You can find plenty to interest and impress you there, plus it’s completely free! Running until the 1st September, you still have time to visit!
Till next time,