Step Inside the Fashion & Textiles Gallery: Daily Updates on the Installation of ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’

Over the next 10 days we’ll be giving you the chance to see ‘behind the scenes’ as we install our forthcoming ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ exhibition. The daily blogs will be written by our Marketing Officer, Rachael, one of our ICON/HLF Textiles Conservation Interns, Jamie and our Digital Communications Officer, Alison.

Tuesday 31st May 2016

Now the build is complete it’s time for the installation of more than 200 pairs of shoes, with the help of the V&A. Exhibitions Manager Sarah Quantrill transported the shoes from London in a fine art truck on Friday and Joanne Hackett, Head of Textiles Conservation arrived yesterday.

Sarah and Joanne
Sarah and Joanne

 

Sarah has worked as an Exhibitions Manager at the V&A for 3 years and has recently installed the exhibition Botticelli Reimagined. Sarah previously worked at the Tate and prior to that as an Exhibitions and Loans Registrar at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

Joanne has been working on Shoes: Pleasure & Pain for the past 4 years, helping the Exhibitions Curator, Helen Persson, with the initial conservation inspection and final choice of shoes to be included. In the end approximately 60% of the shoes needed conserving before displaying and each pair had to have a condition report. After helping with the conservation and the display of the shoes Joanne has a personal favourite due to their beautiful design.

Joanne's favourite gold shoe, T.83:1,2-2009 Saks Fifth Avenue, USA, 1940 © Victoria and Albert Museum
Joanne’s favourite gold shoe, T.83:1,2-2009 Saks Fifth Avenue, USA, 1940 © Victoria and Albert Museum

These gold cut-away shoes were covered in bronze paint which had to be picked off – taking a whole lot of time, patience and a magnifying glass, but the end result I think we can all agree was worth it.

Once the exhibition closed at the V&A it took a team of five people 6 weeks to pack the shoes up using custom packing and ensuring that all crates were made to measure to fit through the Museum’s revolving doors.

Bringing in the crates of shoes
Bringing in the crates of shoes

Today will be concentrating on unpacking the shoes and placing them on the correct plinths ready for the condition checking before final installation.

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

Wednesday 1st June 2016

We are now well into week one of the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition installation and the Fashion and Textile Gallery is a hive of activity.  As one of the textile conservation ICON/HLF interns at The Bowes Museum it has been both my pleasure and a privilege to assist the V&A team with unpacking, condition reporting and placing of objects in their allocated cases.  Each pair of shoes arrived beautifully packaged in their own custom-made Correx® tray, complete with silk pads and cotton tabs, to prevent the shoes moving around in their crates during transit – works of art in themselves.  We have been working strategically to empty the crates and get the objects into their cases, before condition reporting the objects case by case can commence.

Shoes in Their Custom-Made Mounts for Travel
Shoes in Their Custom-Made Mounts for Travel

Condition reporting is a vital stage in the exhibition installation process.  Each object going on tour is accompanied by a document detailing the piece and all condition features, plus a number of images to act as a visual record.  This is then used to check the physical object against on arrival at each new venue and signed off by staff from the two institutions.  Condition reporting is an excellent opportunity to have a close and careful look at each piece and today I have seen everything, from a pair of Indian mojari exquisitely embroidered with gold threadwork to a pair of Kylie’s green suede Jimmy Choos with crystals and feathers.

 

Condition Reporting in Progress
Condition Reporting in Progress

By Jamie Robinson, ICON/HLF Textiles Conservation Intern

Thursday 2nd June 2016

Last night our Exhibitions team worked late to install the iconic ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ neon sign which will greet visitors as they approach the exhibition on the first floor. This eye-catching neon featured on the exhibition title wall at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and we were delighted to be able to secure the loan of it from the V&A for the duration of the exhibition. Its luminosity and brilliance, when lit, encapsulates the essence of the amazing shoes within the exhibition, and signposts visitors, catching their attention immediately, towards the Fashion & Textiles Gallery.

Neon sign being installed
Neon sign being installed

Today as, Jamie and Joanne continue to condition check the shoes, Sarah and Joanna Hashagen will focus on the installation of three collections of shoes which will make up the display entitled ‘Obsession’ in the Glass Cube. Two are from our own collection: shoes collected by Empress Eugénie which Hannah our Fashion & Textiles Assistant Curator explored in her blog Obsession: Empress Eugénie’s Shoe Collection last week, and the other our Founders’ collection of shoes, explored in Walk This Way: Preparing Shoes for Display earlier in May, by Katy Smith our Textile Conservator.

The third collection belongs to the V&A and was created by Lionel Bussey who collected women’s shoes from about 1914 until his death in 1969. He amassed over 600 pairs of new, mostly unworn shoes, and when he died, the V&A were able to select 50 pairs (T.279 to 329-1970) and it is from these that the Curator of ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ Helen Persson selected those to include in the exhibition. You can read more about Lionel Bussey and his shoe ‘fetish’ in Helen’s blog http://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/shoes-pleasure-and-pain/shoe-collector-lionel

Shoes from the Bussey Collection
Shoes from the Bussey Collection

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications Officer

Friday 3rd June 2016

Just three days into the installation of this exhibition and we are already over half way there, quite painlessly, until I was introduced to a very special pair of pointe shoes being prepared for display as part of the ‘transformation’ theme of the exhibition!

Ballet shoes made for Norma Shearer, The Red Shoes, © Northampton Museums & Art Gallery
Ballet shoes made for Norma Shearer, The Red Shoes, © Northampton Museums & Art Gallery

These red ballet shoes were made for the actress Moira Shearer, who, as Victoria Page, danced to her death in the 1948 tearjerker film, The Red Shoes, which has since become a classic. The shoes, which are constructed of silk satin, braid and leather, are a tiny size 3 1/2 and were made by Freed of London in that year.

Today was a real eye-opener, giving me a real understanding and insight into the ‘pain’ part of the exhibition title; the agony Moira must have gone through wearing these shoes. I learned that it’s usual for ballet shoes to be two sizes smaller than your normal shoe size, but to be able to dance on the tips of your toes with no support in these pointe shoes just completely flummoxes me, why people would do so, either for pain or for pleasure, I just cannot fathom. For those unaware of the film’s plot, Victoria ‘Vicky’ had to make the impossible choice between the love for her husband and her need to dance, leading to a conflict that destroyed her. Pain in her heart as well as her feet.

All in all it doesn’t lead to a very good Friday feeling, but it has certainly whetted my appetite and I can’t wait to learn further stories behind more of these stunning shoes next week.

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

Monday 6th June 2016

Refreshed after the weekend break we returned to the Fashion and Textile Gallery to continue with exhibition installation.  The Founders’ Collection has now been sealed into The Glass Cube but just before we did so we managed to unite this intricate nineteenth century Chinese shoe from The Bowes Museum collection with a somewhat larger example from the V&A.

Back: FE.77:1, 2-2002 Chinese 19th Century Shoe for Han Men with Characteristic Flat Sole from the Victoria and Albert Museum Front: CST.321 Chinese 19th Century Shoe from The Bowes Museum Founders’ Collection
Back: FE.77:1, 2-2002 Chinese 19th Century Shoe for Han Men with Characteristic Flat Sole from the Victoria and Albert Museum
Front: CST.321 Chinese 19th Century Shoe from The Bowes Museum Founders’ Collection

 

The pair from The Bowes had extensive damage around the blue silk trim and one of my textile conservation projects prior to exhibition installation was to treat these examples for display.  This involved dyeing conservation grade nylon net to match the blue silk and overlaying the areas of damage with lengths of this netting cut into strips.  The lengths were secured with Güttermann Skala 360 polyester thread, a treatment which has both improved the appearance of the object and stabilised the damaged area.

CST.321 Chinese 19th Century Man’s Shoe During Conservation
CST.321 Chinese 19th Century Man’s Shoe During Conservation

 

The Bowes Museum Founders’ Collection on Display in Shoes: Pleasure and Pain
The Bowes Museum Founders’ Collection on Display in Shoes: Pleasure and Pain

 

All cases have now been filled and the next job is to tweak the display to ensure that each object is shown off to its best advantage.  Textiles are very susceptible to light damage so we try and maintain a maximum light level of 50 lux within display cases.  Light has to be used carefully and creatively to pick out details without causing further damage to the objects over the course of their exhibition – no easy task, but when you get it right even the smallest of shoes can shine.

CST.321 Chinese 19th Century Man’s Shoe After Conservation
CST.321 Chinese 19th Century Man’s Shoe After Conservation

 

By Jamie Robinson, ICON/HLF Textiles Conservation Intern

Tuesday 7th June 2016

Today there is a real buzz in the gallery – in one corner is BBC Look North filming for a segment to be aired later this week.

Sharuna Sagar from BBC Look North
Sharuna Sagar from BBC Look North

They are currently concentrating on the pair of shoes worn by Naomi Campbell when she toppled over on the catwalk, which were also here 5 years ago in the exhibition Vivienne Westwood Shoes for those of you who were lucky to see that show whilst it was on its international tour.

Blue mock-croc platforms worn by Naomi Campbell during the Vivienne Westwood ‘Anglomania’ Fashion Show, Paris, France, 1993
Blue mock-croc platforms worn by Naomi Campbell during the Vivienne Westwood ‘Anglomania’ Fashion Show, Paris, France, 1993 © Vivienne Westwood

Whilst the filming is taking place work is still going on in the gallery, with the display of a pair of Shoes you may have seen around (hopefully quite a lot)… they have been on posters, in the media, on websites, banners, flags, anything the Museum has sent on to help shout about this exhibition – they are the highly decorated shoes by designer Roger Vivier for Christian Dior. These stunning pink beaded evening shoes were worn by socialite and fashion icon Gloria Guinness, who was described by Vogue as “the most elegant woman in the world”, are a perfect example of the combination of Dior’s nostalgic romanticism and Vivier’s thoroughly modern aesthetic, geared towards sculpted, streamlined, geometric silhouettes.

Roger Vivier for Christian Dior © Victoria and Albert Museum
Roger Vivier for Christian Dior © Victoria and Albert Museum

In another area of the gallery the finishing touches to the theme Creation are taking place with the inclusion of the Christian Louboutin ‘Daffodil’ shoes, of which a similar pair were worn by Victoria Beckham for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Christian Louboutin ‘Daffodil’ shoes
Christian Louboutin ‘Daffodil’ shoes

Along with the display of graphic panels and light boxes the gallery seems to have come to life all of a sudden. This light box shows x-rays of some of the shoes belonging to the V&A – the black parts being the metal used in production and the white the leather.

Light box showing xrays of shoes
Light box showing xrays of shoes

With lots of stories still to hear behind the 200 plus pair of shoes in the exhibition I look forward to spending the next few months learning as many as possible…

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

 

Wednesday 8th June 2016

Following my blog last week which included the collections in the exhibition’s ‘Obsession’ theme, created by Empress Eugénie, our Founders, John and Joséphine Bowes and Lionel Bussey, I want to continue along this vein exploring more obsessive collectors.

One of the benefits of the V&A’s ‘Shoes: Pleasure & Pain’ exhibition touring to other venues, is the opportunity for the venues to explore and add local objects and collections which complement the touring show. In London, the V&A included the Adidas running shoe, the adizero Primeknit designed by Product Designer, Alexander Taylor, who, coincidentally, grew up in Barnard Castle.

Alexander Taylor for Adidas, Primeknit Sports Shoe, Synthetics, England, 2012
Alexander Taylor for Adidas, Primeknit Sports Shoe, Synthetics, England, 2012

 

Alex developed a knitted upper for the running shoe, knitting thermoplastic fused yarns in one piece which was an innovation without waste. Adidas launched his design of adizero Primeknit with a limited edition of 2,012 running shoes in red and white to celebrate the London Olympic Games in 2012.

Within the ‘Obsession’ theme, our Fashion & Textiles Curators have developed new strands of the exhibition exclusive to us, exploring the world of ‘sneakerheads’, those who collect, trade or admire trainers as a hobby. In our exhibition we are including two private collections of sneakers belonging to Neil Pestell and Ross Macwaters. Neil grew up in the northwest in the late 70s and 80s and, in his own words “spent my time daydreaming about trainers just like nearly every other lad did back then. The problem is that I still daydream about trainers to this day. I grew up wearing adidas and will hopefully grow old wearing adidas.” Neil has amassed a collection of about 1,000 pairs of sneakers, 15 of which feature in our exhibition.

Ross Macwaters, whose collection of mainly post 2000-release adidas sneakers, spoke to me about the rarest in his 600-pair collection – the adidas ZX 8000.

 

Ross Macwaters' pair of adidas ZX 8000
Ross Macwaters’ pair of adidas ZX 8000

 

The adidas ZX 8000 was designed by Jacques Chassaing and Markus Thaler. Both of them have been onboard with adidas since the 1970s, Jacques designing and Markus literally hand-developing the wares alongside Adi Dassler himself. The ZX 8000 is an honourable nod to their work with the company. Ross paid £1,600 for his pair, of which there are said to be only 50 in the world. The box in itself is amazing with a drawer underneath the shoe showing the separate components. Ross pointed me towards a website called ‘Eat More Shoes’ which has some great photos of the sneaker, and everything you need to know about it.

Even the box is pretty cool!
Even the box is pretty cool!

Ross usually buys sneakers in his size, but adidas only produced the ZX 8000 in one single size, a UK 8.5. He told me “it’s not a shoe you’d wear anyway as it’s more one you’d want to show-off. It’s hand-made.” His fascination with footwear began through playing basketball and since then he’s travelled far and wide, with trips to Tokyo and the US, to expand his collection and seek out rare examples.

Not knowing all that much about sneakers before this exhibition, having only owned a pair of Saucony running shoes from ‘life before the Museum’, the last week has been a steep learning curve. We met with Stephen from Triads, a designer clothing store in Middlesbrough, to plan events for the summer and I was introduced to a really sociable group of people pursuing their interest in the latest designs, makes, releases and technology.

If you are reading this ‘live’ so to speak, then you need to know that Triads has launched a competition on Instagram to coincide with the release of Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 750 on Saturday 11th. To be in with TWO chances to purchase the Yeezy Boost 750, call into the store on Linthorpe Road before 2pm Friday to register, or regram the post on Instagram with #TRIADSXAGYEEZY750 stating your UK size before 11.59pm Thursday. Good luck!

 

Chance to win Yeezy Boost 750
Chance to win Yeezy Boost 750

 

Learning about this incredibly expensive hobby is just one of the fascinating elements of ‘Shoes: Pleasure & Pain’. I can’t wait to meet the collectors, Ross and Neil and other ‘sneakerheads’ who, we hope, will come to see the exhibition this summer, and take part in some of the events we are planning – something special in September – keep in touch for more info…

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications Officer

Thursday 9th June 2016

THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES….

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain opening on Saturday 11th June at The Bowes Museum will include 200 pairs of shoes spanning 1600 years of history from around the world.

Putting the flags out - we're almost there!
Putting the flags out – we’re almost there!

Shoes have been loaned from 9 institutions and 18 private lenders, including Kylie, Manolo Blanik and Luis Vuitton.

32 pairs of Adidas trainers and 40+ Adidas shoe boxes came from 2 British collectors.

190 objects from The Fashion and Textile Gallery were removed from their show cases and placed into storage to accommodate the exhibition.

A team of textile conservators from the V&A spent 1700 hours conserving the objects before they were handed onto mount makers for bespoke display mounts.

A single pair of silver lace shoes dating to 1750 [T.70&A-1947] took 60 hours to conserve, making this the longest object treatment.

2 staff members from the V&A Exhibitions Department organised the tour.

4 technicians packed the crates for transit over 4 weeks.

Shoes were couriered 246 miles from the V&A to Barnard Castle.

In mid-October the exhibition tour will continue onto 8 venues across America and China, next stop – the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

3 designers from Here Design are currently at work in the museum, assisting with the installation.

274 object labels are in the process of being transferred onto cases.

Volunteers and members of staff have threaded tens of thousands of red shoe laces onto grids for an installation suspended from the gallery ceiling.

Tens of thousands of red shoe laces
Tens of thousands of red shoe laces

2 curators, 3 textile conservators and 4 members of the exhibitions team at The Bowes Museum have been working with the V&A and the designers to make it possible.

The exhibition will be on display for 121 days.

By Jamie Robinson, ICON/HLF Textiles Conservation Intern

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