As the world takes tentative steps towards normality, and cultural entities throw wide their doors once more, Christian Louboutin is rolling out the (safely distanced) red carpet for you and your red-soled shoes, inviting one and all to the newly-reopened L’Exhibition[niste] — the biggest exhibition ever to showcase his work, and the first one to be held in his hometown of Paris.
Despite the scale of the exhibition, with its 10 concept rooms and all their sensory treats, the display manages to remain personal and intimate — as if one were exploring the very mind of Monsieur Louboutin himself.
For one, the exhibition is being held in a venue that seems humble and unexpected, until one realises the significance it has had on Christian Louboutin’s life and creativity. He was born nearby in the 12th arrondissement, and began visiting the Palais de la Porte Dorée when he was as young as 8-years-old, he tells us. It all started from there. One fateful visit, he noticed a sign forbidding visitors to wear high heeled shoes. That very sign intrigued him enough to provide the inspiration for one of his most recognisable designs: the Pigalle pump.
Beyond the most notable of Christian Louboutin’s shoes created during his over 30-year career (including some for Yves Saint Laurent and Roger Vivier, before he started his eponymous brand in 1991), Louboutin has dedicated half of the exhibition to “things that I have loved more or less all my life,” he says. Think Warhol’s Flowers that led to the Pensée shoe, vernacular pottery, a Bhutanese royal crown, and 18th century paintings by the late Pierre Molinier.
Read on for an interview with Christian Louboutin himself (held before the coronavirus outbreak), who tells us more about L’Exhibition[niste], which took three years to conceptualise and create.
You speak very fondly of Palais de la Porte Dorée. Why is it such a special place for you?
This place is a very special place for me because I was born just nearby. So since my childhood, I have been visiting this place. At the beginning, when I was about 8- or 9-years-old, I was a bit scared on my way to the park, because the Palais looked so magnificent to me. My older sister pushed me to come in, and said I would see beautiful fishes. I came and I never stopped coming back.
What do you remember of the museum?
There was an aquarium downstairs, and slowly, I went upstairs. On the ground floor, there was a museum of African and Oceanic art, so there were collections of old French colonies. There were so many things to see: masks, jewellery, fabrics, and all sorts of objects. It was my way of travelling before I could actually travel out of the country.
There are plenty of shoes on display, of course. Yet the exhibition has much more…
It had to be legitimate for me, and it had to be more than about shoes. It’s a vast exhibition. It speaks about my childhood, the museum. A lot of things come before the shoes. A joy comes to light. You will see the first drawing that I ever saw of a shoe. It was a sketch in the very building you enter. The sketch was of the profile of a shadow of a shoe. And as a kid, I was so surprised to see that. I was there in the ’70s, and the shoe depicted was one from the ’50s. I wondered why there was a drawing of a woman’s shoe that didn’t exist at the time. It was crossed in red and I wondered why it was forbidden. This is why it made sense for me to have an exhibition here. The exhibition shows what is inside my head, and I hope you like it.
Almost 30 years in the business entails a lot of work. How did you decide what to include in the exhibition?
I wanted to show how it’s not just about me, but it concerns many other people. I have many inferences and things that I love that start my designs. You will see many of the things I love.
Christian Louboutin L’Exhibition[niste] is now open to the public, and will run until January 3 2021. Online booking is mandatory at lexposition.christianlouboutin.com.