Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shoes in Art

Installation shot of Art in Shoes in Art, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2010

This enchanting piece is the first thing you see when you step through the gallery doors into the Art in Shoes in Art exhibition which opened at the Bata Shoe Museum on October 2, 2010. This enlargement of the famous engraving called Habit de Cordonnier by Gerard Valck from 1690 depicts a shoemaker with shoes and tools used to construct his outfit, and his hat is comprised of fashionable men's and women's shoes. The original engraving is displayed in a cabinet around the corner and is one of the many shoe themed artworks and shoemaker's artifacts from the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum.

On a private tour of the exhibition with curator Elizabeth Semmelhack, I learned that Sonja Bata, founder of the museum, selected her favourite pieces from among the 13000 artifacts in storage to create this exhibition. Besides shoes, the museum's collection includes prints, sculptures, drawings, photographs, shoemaker's tools, shoemaker's artifacts and documents, and other forms of footwear. The exhibition is designed to showcase artworks and where possible, to pair the artwork with actual examples of the shoes or tools shown in the artwork.

For example, in the French lithograph ApprĂȘts du Marriage by Vallon de Villeneuve and printed by Charles Etienne (1820), a bride is shown donning creamy white bridal slippers with red laces that match the red accents of her dress. Displayed alongside the lithograph is a pair of ribboned slippers from 1830 from the Bata Shoe Museum collection that are similar in style to those shown in the artwork.

Apprets du Marriage, Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

P97.0063 Ribboned slippers, possibly Spanish
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

Other highlights include two astonishingly life-like wooden sculptures of the shoemaking saints, an exquisite ivory shoehorn, and a number of intricate prints and lithographs dating back as far as 1505.

In the alcove to the side, there are selected works by contemporary artists who use shoes as an inspiration for their work, including Marilyn Levine, Domenique Bordenowe, Paul Wunderlich, Allen James, Jules Stauber and others. One of the most surprising pieces is a ceramic sculpture of a pair of steel-toe work boots by Canadian artist Marilyn Levine. Look closely at the photo below. Don't they seem real?

P98.0032 Steel Toe Boots #2
Marilyn Levine 1971
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

The Bata Shoe Museum is one of my favourite museums anywhere and always worth a visit.
For hours and location information, visit their website with this link: Bata Shoe Museum.

Photo credits: All photos are subject to copyright and not to be used without permission.