Manolo Blahnik at the heart of the Wallace Collection

‘An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection’ has now opened in London, displaying the most famous shoes from the legendary footwear designer’s archive, set amongst the world-renowned paintings and objects of the collection’s 18th century rooms.

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The new exhibition, co-curated by Manolo Blahnik and Wallace Collection Director Dr Xavier Bray, has been designed by award-winning designers and cultural collaborators, Nissen Richards Studio. Highlighting the common aesthetic territory between the collection’s baroque masterpieces and Blahnik’s own decadent craftsmanship, the exhibition aims to create a dialogue between art and craft.

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Following its successful collaboration with the Wallace Collection on the recent Henry Moore exhibit, The Helmet Heads, which told the story of another luminary inspired by objects within the famous galleries, Nissen Richards Studio was invited to work with the co-curators to place, contextualise and display over 120 of Manolo Blahnik’s shoe designs (some individual and some pairs) within ten first floor rooms of the two-storey collection, which is located in Hertford House on London’s Manchester Square. The commission also included the creation of graphic collateral, such as the brochure given to all visitors on arrival and the large-scale ground floor introductory panel, placed directly opposite a wall showing a dozen of Manolo Blahnik’s famously-accomplished and exuberant sketch designs.

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Although a small number of shoes have been placed within existing cabinets housing painted miniatures, the majority have been displayed within a total of 44 glass domes, either 400mm, 600mm or 800mm in height. Between one and three shoes are displayed in each dome, at the optimum viewing angles, with each shoe supported by a 15mm-diameter steel rod. At the base of the displays are two 372mm-diameter stainless steel discs with an extra 10mm lip and a series of small clips to the lower disc to secure the hand-blown glass domes, which were bespoke-made for the project by Suffolk Glass to a 3-4mm thickness, whilst small transparent discs at the base of each rod spell out the title of each design.

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“Everything had to be engineered precisely to ensure the maximum visibility of the shoes and to evoke a deliberate feel of delicacy, even fragility, whilst at the same time ensuring the displays were robust enough for public display”, Nissen Richards Director Pippa Nissen commented. “The great advantages of choosing domes is that they not only offer clear sight of the precious objects from every angle, but the rounded surfaces also create their own light texture, which is useful because the galleries themselves already have highly-controlled lighting to reveal and protect the art and objects, meaning adding in further lighting was impossible”.

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About Alys Bryan

Alys' experience as a furniture designer, along with her in-depth marketing knowledge, makes her uniquely placed to work with the BCFA as the Editor of Design Insider and run her marketing business, Method Communications.
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