One July afternoon, Christian Louboutin was conducting media interviews in a quiet corner of Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum, just hours before revealing an important chapter in his career as a shoe designer and applied artist. Dressed in a flamingo suit for the occasion, Louboutin was about to greet fashion lovers, celebrities and members of the Monegasque royal family who walked the red carpet for the opening of his personal exhibition “L’ exhibition[iste]Chapter II.”
It is essentially a follow-up to the exhibition of his work which took place at the Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris almost two years ago. This new chapter, however, is not a mere repetition. It’s much bigger, both in size and ambition, and more true to its original vision for the show, the designer said. It has also been recontextualized for the Côte d’Azur.
There have been other glamorous shows featuring Louboutin’s iconic red-soled shoes, of which he has designed some 300 over the past three decades, but “L’Exhibition[iste], Chapter II” is much more than a retrospective, the creator said. Rather, it is a show that explores and maps Louboutin’s varied influences through a selection of works, while showcasing his latest artistic collaborations as well as pieces on loan from Monegasque institutions.
“We did it the way I really wanted to,” Louboutin told Artnet News. The vast space and flexibility offered by the Grimaldi Forum, which has long been a major exhibition venue in Monaco, gave Louboutin and the curator of the exhibition, Olivier Gabet, director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris , the freedom to rethink the exhibition as they imagined it, without the constraints they faced when setting up the Paris show.
“There’s no height limit here, no space limit in general, which is very, very, very nice,” said the 59-year-old designer. The exhibition spans over 21,000 square feet. “We were also helped by the incredibly kind people of Monaco. The whole Principality opened its doors, to its collections, to the reserves of its museums. I was able to [borrow] very nice pieces. »
The organization of the exhibition in Monaco was not a random decision. Paris is perhaps where Louboutin was born and raised, and where he opened his first boutique in 1991 on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, after learning the art of shoemaking and shoe design from by Roger Vivier and Charles Jordan.
But it was Monaco that gave him a major career boost: Princess Caroline (now officially Her Royal Highness The Princess of Hanover) walked into the Louboutin boutique in Paris just months after it opened, bought several pairs of her shoes and became one of her most beautiful loyal customers. The princess’s shoe purchases were exposed in the press, leading shoppers in US department stores to knock on Louboutin’s doors.
Naturally, the princess was the guest of honor at the opening of the exhibition, alongside her brother HSH Prince Albert II. “Besides being someone I consider one of my fairy godmothers, she really became a friend,” said Louboutin, who gave them a personal tour of the exhibit.
It is divided into 14 rooms that connect thematically, each with a unique soundtrack to help immerse visitors in the world of Louboutin. by Tchaikovsky Dance of the sugar plum fairy plays in the first room, with its wall of shoes bathed in red light. And old radio broadcasts accompany an exhibition of some of his early drawings and sketches, including those that predated his most iconic shoes, which originated in 1992 when the designer took his assistant’s nail polish and painted the sole of a prototype red.
One room is dedicated to Louboutin’s Nudes series, shoes designed to suit all skin types, accompanied by nine leather sculptures by British duo Whitaker & Malem, commissioned by the designer himself. There’s also a “Hall of Treasure” highlighting Louboutin designs that draw inspiration from around the world, including the Lady Grès shoe that pays homage to Madame Grès’ turbans and pleats; styles referring to the art of Africa, Oceania and America; and sculptural pieces (not made for walking) inspired by sea creatures – a nod to the Aquarium at the Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris, which Louboutin frequented as a child.
Louboutin wanted the public to experience more than just his wonderful creations. “Okay, we’re talking about the shoes, but as you can see, overall the show doesn’t feature as many shoes – a lot of the exhibition space is dedicated to artists like Allen Jones and Lisa Reihana,” Gabet said. “Christian, as a young man, was very close to the museum where chapter one [of the exhibition] took place. For him, it is important to show the transformative power of art and how museums and the discovery of art can change your life.
Louboutin has dedicated a space to New Zealand artist Reihana, whom he met at the Venice Biennale in 2017, and whom he commissioned to create a monumental new digital work titled A dreamin which the artist retraces the designer’s creative journey.
Meanwhile, the “All(en) in Wonderland” room is the result of a discussion Louboutin had with Jones nearly two years ago, after he invited the British artist to see his Paris show. It comprises Cover Story II, a new body of work that renders a digital version of Jones’ iconic piece from 2013, projected onto a 36-foot-long screen. It is displayed alongside five of his once controversial sculptures referencing the female body and their accompanying shadow play.
In the “Imaginary Museum”, objects from Louboutin’s personal collection (for example, an Egyptian mummy foot crate of around 200 pieces) sit alongside objects that he and his team of curators have handpicked from institutions. local. You will find, for example, a headdress in blue silk taffeta designed by André Levasseur, on loan from the New National Museum of Monaco. The piece was worn by Josephine Baker, the American-born French singer and dancer who was also a spy for the Allies during World War II, during a performance Josephine at the Sporting d’Été de Monte-Carlo in 1974. This is how Louboutin fell in love with feathers.
When the designer opened his Paris boutique, he decorated it with a photograph of chickens, despite a friend’s warning. “His mother said it was an offense for women to have chickens in a shoe store,” Louboutin recalled. He disagreed and refused to take down the image, although it took him a few years to figure out why he liked it so much. “For me, it was not a representation of women. I liked chickens because I liked feathers. He added that they are linked to his passion for showgirls like Baker, whom he considers artists.
Scenographic model by André Derain from 1926 for jack in the boxa one-act ballet by Éric Satie for the Ballets Russes (also from the New National Museum of Monaco), and Ernst Haeckel’s lithographic plates detailing the study of sea creatures from the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, which Louboutin visited as a child, are used to map the influences of the creator as well.
“I’ve always liked fish scales or silver fish,” Louboutin noted. “If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t necessarily see or imagine that. But then when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, it’s pretty cohesive. It was a bit of a shock to me [to see these influences] last a long time. »
Louboutin may, in the future, discover more about himself and his influences as the exhibit travels and is reimagined for new locations. It is planned to stage it in China (Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing) in 2024. It could also travel to Australia and North America.
Louboutin said he has no interest in skydiving to different destinations and imposing his show – rather, creating future chapters for local contexts is important to him. “I want to take time in each place, look around, work with the people there,” he said.
” The exhibition[iste]Chapter II” runs until August 28 at the Grimaldi Forum Monaco.
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