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Unknown Italian artist, chopine, 1550–1650Photograph: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; gift of Herman Delman, 1955

PALM SPRINGS, CA.- Palm Springs Art Museum will open the highly anticipated exhibition Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe on September 5, which will be on view through December 13, 2015. The exhibition merges fashion, film, and material culture, while exploring the fashion world’s most coveted object, its rich cultural history, and its complex relationships to fantasy, functionality, identity and power.  

Organized thematically, Killer Heels features more than 110 contemporary high heels and 50 historical designs drawn from designer archives, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s renowned costume collections. Beyond the archetypal forms – stiletto, wedge, and platform – the emphasis is on designs that play with the sculptural, architectural, and artistic possibilities of the high heel using innovative or unexpected materials or techniques; and that push the limits of functionality, wearability, and even conventional beauty, through surprising structure, shape, or height.  

Presented in arched pedestals the heels will be exhibited in six themes throughout open pathways of the gallery housing the exhibition. The themes are “Revival and Reinterpretation,” “Rising in the East,” “Glamour and Fetish,” “Architecture,” “Metamorphosis,” and “Space Walk.” Spanning the 17th century to the present, each of the themes reflects the design of the shoes, shifting fashion trends, social preferences, and surprising formal similarities across cultures and time.   

The exhibition includes a selection of extraordinary high heels by more than 50 contemporary designers, including Céline, Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, Prada, and United Nude. These shoes are presented in compelling visual dialogues with historical high heels. Examples include exquisite 18th century court heels, tiny 19th century Chinese slippers for bound feet, and iconic 20th century heel designs by Salvatore Ferragamo, Delman, and Roger Vivier for Christian Dior. 

In addition, Killer Heels features six original short films that take the high heel as a central motif. Commissioned for the exhibition, the films explore a range of provocative cultural, social, sexual, ideological and political themes, demonstrating the enormous power of the high heel in the collective imagination. Artists include Ghada Amer and Reza Farknondeh, Steven Klein, Zach Gold, Nick Knight, Marilyn Minter, and Rashaad Newsome. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue available for purchase in the Museum Store and Bradford W. Bates Vault: the Museum Design Store. 

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe is organized by the Brooklyn Museum.  

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French. Shoes, 1690–1700. Silk, leather. Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY.

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Chinese, Manchu Woman's Shoe, 19th century, Cotton, embroidered satin-weave silk, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection, 34.1060a, b. Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

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French. Boots, 1900–1920. Leather, cellulose. Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

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André Perugia, evening sandals, 1928–29Photograph: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; gift of the Brooklyn Museum; 2009

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Salvatore Ferragamo, Ankle-strap sandal, 1938. Leather, cork, metalImage copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

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Victor (American). Platform Sandal, circa 1940. Leather. Brooklyn Museum photograph, Mellon Costume Documentation Project, Lea Ingold and Lolly Koon, photographers

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Roger Vivier for House of Dior. Evening Slippers, 1960. Silk, metal, synthetic, glass. Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

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Beth and Herbert Levine. “Kabuki” Evening Shoe, circa 1965. Silk, metal, wood. Brooklyn Museum photograph, Mellon Costume Documentation Project, Lea Ingold and Lolly Koon, photographers

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Casuccio e Scalera per Loris Azzaro (Italian). Sandal, 1974–79. Leather, synthetic material, cotton. Courtesy of The Bata Shoe Museum. © 2014 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada

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Vivienne Westwood, “Super Elevated Gillies," 1993Photograph: Courtesy Vivienne Westwood

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Rem D. Koolhaas, “Eamz,” 2004. Courtesy of United Nude. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.

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Miu Miu, "Cammeo Baroque". Leather Wedge, Fall-Winter 2006. Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

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Chau Har Lee, “Blade Heel,” 2010. Perspex, stainless steel, leather. Courtesy of Chau Har Lee. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.

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Christian Louboutin. “Metropolis,” Fall/Winter 2010–11. Calfskin and silver spikes. Courtesy of Christian Louboutin. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.

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Winde Rienstra, “Bamboo Heel,” 2012. Bamboo, glue, plastic cable ties. Courtesy of Winde Rienstra. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.

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Prada, Wedge Sandal in Rosso, Bianco, and Nero Leather, Spring/Summer 2012, courtesy of Prada USA Corp, photography by Jake Zukerkorn.

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Noritaka Tatehana, Atom, 2012-13, faux leather, courtesy of Noritaka Tatehana. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.

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Zaha Hadid, X United Nude, NOVA, 2013, chromed vinyl rubber, kid napa leather, fiberglass, courtesy of United Nude, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.

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Iris van Herpen, X United Nude, Beyond Wilderness, 2013, courtesy of United Nude, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn

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Balenciaga, block heel, spring 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Marie-Amélie Sauvé

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Nicholas Kirkwood,  Pumps, Spring-Summer 2013, Suede with gold and clear Swarovski crystals, courtesy of Nicholas Kirkwood, Photo: Jay Zukerkorn

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Aperlaï, “Geisha Lines,” Fall 2013. Leather. Courtesy of Aperlaï. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.

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JANTAMINIAU, “L’Image Tranquille”, 2013. (Handcrafted by René van den Bezrg.) Courtesy of JANTAMINIAU. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.

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Walter Steiger. “Unicorn Tayss,” Spring 2013. Courtesy of Walter Steiger. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn

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Christian Louboutin, “Printz,” Spring-Summer 2013–14 (Courtesy Christian Louboutin/Brooklyn Museum)

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Bruno Frisoni for Roger Vivier, “Virgule Houndstooth,” Fall 2014. Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

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Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh. A Pause in An Abstract Painting, 2014. Photo: Brian Buckley

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Marilyn Minter, Rendering from Untitled, 2014. Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

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Zach Gold, Still from Spike, 2014, video, color, sound, courtesy of Zach Gold.

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Steven Klein, 2014., Still from Untitled, 791, 2014, video, color, sound; 7 min. 48 sec. Courtesy of Steven Klein Studio. (c) Steven Klein 2014

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Rashaad Newsome, Still from Knot, 2014, video, color, sound, courtesy of the artist