By Liz Petoniak | Photographs from Sarah DeSantis/Brooklyn Museum, Jay Zukerkorn


The Frick Art & Historical Center fulfills the fantasies of the shoe-obsessed with the highly anticipated opening of Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe, on June 11. Lust-worthy footwear from designers that fuel our fixation, like Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Prada, and Alexander McQueen, will be on display alongside historical and conceptual pieces, like 18th-century silk slippers and shoes produced from a 3-D printer, as a feast for the eyes that delves into thinking of high-heeled shoes as “layered cultural symbols in narratives of attraction, transformation, empowerment, and play.” This exhibition marks the continuity of fashion as a theme at The Frick as the first of three major fashion exhibits to come through the museum, including Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion next fall, and the works of Isabelle de Borchgrave, who creates historic costumes entirely out of paper in 2018. Director Robin Nicholson, appointed in September 2014, tells us he sees fashion as a niche space in Pittsburgh that the museum has the potential to fill. “I saw the exhibition well before I came to The Frick, and I was thinking about the popularity of fashion and how we can create our niche here,” he says. “It’s contemporary, modern, and glamorous. [Killer Heels] bridges the gap perfectly for us, and it pushes The Frick out there as a more edgy space.”

Chinese. Manchu Woman’s Shoe, 19th Century. Cotton embroidered satin-weave silk. Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection. 

Chinese. Manchu Woman’s Shoe, 19th Century. Cotton embroidered satin-weave silk. Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection.

The Brooklyn Museum, where the exhibit originally opened, commissioned six videos from cutting-edge contemporary artists offering daring interpretations of the high heel’s role in modern art and society. Nicholson explains that Killer Heels uncovers the high-heeled shoe’s many facets, from its initial development, to East Asian inspiration, its role in glamour and fetish, as a form of architecture, the incorporation of natural and animal forms, and space design influence à la Lady Gaga. With pieces pulled from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, and the designers themselves, the total number of heels tallies up to nearly 150. He says, “I think that [visitors] will be surprised by the variety of forms that shoes can take. This [exhibit] just shows how imaginative designers have been in thinking about that whole form. In all of fashion, it’s the most fantastical and architectural creation. The collection emphasizes that it’s a visual feast — colorful, dramatic, and exciting.” For tickets, visit thefrickpittsburgh.org.

Frick Art & Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze. 412.371.0600. thefrickpittsburgh.orgKiller Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe is organized by Lisa Small, Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum.

Winde Rienstra. “Bamboo Heel,” 2012. Bamboo, glue, plastic cable ties. Courtesy of Winde Rienstra.

Winde Rienstra. “Bamboo Heel,” 2012. Bamboo, glue, plastic cable ties. Courtesy of Winde Rienstra.

Prada. Wedge Sandal in Rosso, Bianco, and Nero Leather, Spring/Summer 2012. Courtesy of Prada USA Corp.

Prada. Wedge Sandal in Rosso, Bianco, and Nero Leather, Spring/Summer 2012. Courtesy of Prada USA Corp.

JANT AMINIAU. "L'lmage Tranquille," 2013. (Handcrafted by René van den Berg.) Courtesy of JANT AMINIAU. Photograph from Jay Zukerkorn.

JANT AMINIAU. “L’lmage Tranquille,” 2013. (Handcrafted by René van den Berg.) Courtesy of JANT AMINIAU.

Iris van Herpen X United Nude. "Beyond Wilderness," 2013. Courtesy of United Nude.

Iris van Herpen X United Nude. “Beyond Wilderness,” 2013. Courtesy of United Nude.

Aperlaï. "Geisha Lines," Fall 2013. Leather. Courtesy of Aperlaï.

Aperlaï. “Geisha Lines,” Fall 2013. Leather. Courtesy of Aperlaï.

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