At first glance, the shoe is hard to discern. At the center of the Treasure Room, which brings together some of the designer’s most extravagant creations, sits a traditional Spanish palanquin, a shoulder-borne litter typically used for carrying nobility or religious effigies during parades. Like everything else in the exhibition, it is exquisitely made, handcrafted by Spanish coppersmiths, with drapes embroidered in the studio of Indian couturier Sabyasachi Mukherjee. Flanked by roses in silver urns, softly lit by a bank of church candles and ornate candelabras, a two-meter-tall Christian Louboutin stiletto rises up from its silver and gold altar, like a crystal slipper for a giant-sized Cinderella. Designed to look as if it were hewn from an enormous lump of rock crystal, it almost glows. Created by French artist Stéphane Gérard, the sculpture was initially milled from a bespoke block of acrylic crystal in Germany, before Gérard’s atelier added the artist’s signature finish by hand. From its three-tonne initial mass, the final sculpture weighed in at 700kg and took over three months to make. Like the perfect metaphor for the designer’s art, it reigns over some of the most exquisitely bejeweled, feathered and embroidered hand-made shoes from the Louboutin archives. The Treasure Room makes for a breathtaking centerpiece to L’Exhibition[niste] II, a Louboutin retrospective that also encompasses his wide-ranging inspirations, through art and artifacts from around the world. The exhibition initially opened in 2020 at the Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris, one of the designer’s favorite childhood haunts, before the coronavirus pandemic hit. During the three weeks it was open, Princess Caroline of Monaco, a long-standing client and close friend of the designer, visited and suggested it re-open bigger and better in Monaco. After two years of false starts, the show opened July 9 at the Grimaldi Forum, and in two weeks, has already seen over 10,000 visitors. From the first shoe Louboutin ever made – a fish skin-covered pump made in 1987 while he was working for Roger Vivier – to a foretaste of Spring-Summer 2023 with the studded Pumpkin Pump, via the iconic Pigalle, the exhibition is a riot of a journey through his imagination and a fascinating exploration of his influences along the way. For Louboutin, the Grimaldi Forum represented a blank canvas, “freedom of design and narration that allowed me to re-imagine my own exhibition without constraint”. The Forum is across the road from the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, which lent several works, and is currently showing Newton, Riviera, a magnificently sun-soaked overview of the photographer’s oeuvre.
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