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  • “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Roger Vivier (1907—98) for Christian Dior (1905—57) Evening shoes Beaded silk and leather France, 1958—60 V&A: T.149+A—1974. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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“Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum

A new exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum, London, pays homage the different cultural connotations of shoes and their transformative power, while examining the latest technological advances that have created new possibilities in shoe design. The exhibition, titled “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain”, juxtaposes historical and contemporary styles from all around the world, from ancient Greek gladiator sandals to architect Zaha Hadid’s sculptural creations, all carefully selected for their cutting edge design and their historic significance. More than 250 pairs are on display, many of which belong to celebrities and have never been displayed before, including shoes worn by Queen Victoria, Marilyn Monroe, Sarah Jessica Parker, Daphne Guinness, Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga.

The exhibition has gathered the world’s greatest designers, from Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin to Roger Vivier, Jimmy Choo and Prada, offering visitors the chance to discover why shoes are still considered an object of desire, capable of revealing or disguising their owner’s emotional state, socio-cultural background and aspirations. “Shoes are one of the most telling aspects of dress. Beautiful, sculptural objects, they are also powerful indicators of gender, status, identity, taste and even sexual preference. Our choice in shoes can help project an image of who we want to be,” explains the exhibition’s curator Helen Persson.

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” is divided into different themes that explore a specific quality associated with shoes: transformation is dedicated to the magical power of shoes and the way they are portrayed in myths and fairy tales; status examines how extravagant and impractical shoes have been often used as a status symbol; seduction explores shoes as an symbol of sexual empowerment; while two different sections look at shoes as commodities and collectibles, while covering the shifts in production and consumption, focusing on the future of shoe design. “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” runs from June 13 to January 31, 2016, at Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL, London.