“Virgule, etc.,” | The Roger Vivier Exhibit

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Suzy Menkes of the The New York Times says it better then we ever could - here is her article in full on this must see exhibit!

The shape of Marlene Dietrich’s foot is traced on her slender slippers; Elizabeth Taylor has ritzy, glitzy sparkling balls for shoe heels; and out of an open drawer peek the silver-buckled, would-be innocent pumps like those worn by Catherine Deneuve in Luis Buñuel’s 1967 movie “Belle de Jour.”

A houndstooth-check shoe with the ‘‘virgule,’’ or comma, heel created by Mr. Vivier in 1963.

Surely “Sex and Shoes” would have been the appropriate title for this exceptional collection of 170 Roger Vivier shoes on display at the Palais de Tokyo?

But the exhibition, which runs until Nov. 18, has a more subtle name: “Virgule, etc.,” or comma. It refers to the curving shoe heel that was Mr. Vivier’s trademark after he ended his collaboration with Christian Dior and opened a new Paris boutique in 1963.

Olivier Saillard, the exhibition’s curator, has a purist, but witty, vision of shoes as objects of art — and desire. Each of the showcases, as if in a 19th-century museum, has a cultural title like “Department of Egyptian Antiquities” or “Gallery of the Post-Impressionists.” The latter has satin shoes from the 1960s painted with meadow flowers or illuminated with bejeweled petals.

There is also floral tapestry on ankle boots, created in 1969 for the British royal photographer Cecil Beaton. The footwear of male celebrities includes shoes made for Cary Grant and John Lennon.

But Mr. Saillard has deliberately hidden names and dates in an accompanying booklet, rather than splashing them around the exhibit — an idea that is both noble and maddening. At the exhibition’s most popular hours (although the Palais de Tokyo stays opens until midnight every day but Tuesday), finding the numbers and fumbling through the pages would be a lot of work. But it also is a good idea to let the shoes speak for themselves, not as part of a celebrity circus — even if Mr. Vivier did create the footwear for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

The historic shoes are interspersed with a decade of creations from Bruno Frisoni, the brand’s creative director, who has nurtured the flame since 2003, after the Vivier brand was acquired by the shoe giant Tod’s at the start of the millennium.

The show opens with Mr. Frisoni’s interpretations of the comma heel, which give the exhibition its name, and his invention of “Prismick,” a multifaceted surface inspired by the cut of precious stones and by Mr. Vivier’s collages, which is now used on handbags as well as shoes.

The display includes the colorful drawings of both the founder, who died in 1998, and his successor. But one of the most striking elements is at the end of the exhibition: shoes encased in clear plastic cubes for a Surrealist event 50 years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“And it was before Damien Hirst!” said Mr. Frisoni, referring to the “trapped” animals in similar cubes created by the British artist in the 1990s.

Can shoes be art? That is the question posed by Mr. Saillard’s didactic presentation and the scenography of Jean-Julien Simonot, who has used reflecting silver surfaces to modernize the location.

The display certainly shows the art of handcraft, including the couture embroideries of François Lesage and the feathers of the plumist Lemarié. Whether it is a 1987 thigh-high boot embroidered with horsehair by Lesage shown in the “Gallery of Grandiloquent Footwear,” or the original “virgule” heel made for Princess Soraya of Iran, the objects are creations of a haute couture standard.

Mr. Frisoni describes a shoe as “a mix of design and architecture,” explaining that the technology of the 21st century has opened up the possibility of three-dimensional structures that could not have been made previously. He admires at the same time the display of simple 1930s shoes — a rare find — and the imaginative way that Mr. Vivier brought modernity to Dior by using a Plexiglass tab to make a flower appear to be floating across the instep.

After five weeks of women’s wear shows for the spring 2014 season, when the models are often condemned to wear shoes that seem uncomfortable or even dangerous, it is interesting to see that this exhibition shows wearable footwear — even the extraordinary tribal shapes made for Yves Saint Laurent in 1967.

How much has Mr. Frisoni been energized by the Vivier past, projecting it to the future? For the spring 2014 collection, shown in Paris last week, the famous “Belle de Jour” square-buckled shoe, as worn by Ms. Deneuve, was transformed with a new U-shaped buckle that also appeared on bags.

The metallic buckle was also interpreted in leather, silvered or a shimmering finish in vivid blue.

Mr. Frisoni was also inspired to lay flowers at the feet: the floral theme was taken from the landscapes of Gustav Klimt. Those rare and artistic shoes may one day be in a glass case labeled “New Impressionists.”

Source: NYtimes / Video: Blouin ArtInfo



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