November 15, 2019 – June 21, 2020
Ready to go! Shoe-motion

The exhibition is conceived as a tour of the cultural and social history of footwear. Featuring some 500 pairs of shoes, it focuses on the emotions that different types of footwear can arouse.

Shoes, when used as a status symbol, have meanings that embrace not only the wearer but also the observer.The high-heeled shoes of the baroque and rococo periods ostentatiously elevated the wearer above the common people. Today designer shoes by Dior, Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin or Stuart Weitzmann bring happiness. Shoes can also be a symbol of power or a signifier or statement testifying to the allegiance of the person wearing them to a particular group. This is true of cyber goth boots, for example. The importance of footwear from a gender perspective forms the common thread that links gamines sporting Oxford shoes and dainty drag queens in their high heels.

The exhibition also turns the spotlight on voyeurs who get their kicks from looking at certain types of footwear. As a fetish, shoes set collectors’ pulses racing, demanding absolute devotion. Pumps – the archetypal women’s shoe – are worn for their seductive qualities, while stilettos can whip up a frenzy of sexual desire in some or serve as a painful instrument of torture for others. The similarities between lace-up boots and laced corsets bear witness to the visually enticing qualities of tightly bound, curvaceous shapes.

„Styles for the urban jungle” Ladies’ footwear, 2018, imitation leather © Münchner Stadtmuseum
„Higher and higher” Men’s platform heels, 2018 Ladies’ ballet boots, 2018 © Münchner Stadtmuseum
„Laced up tight in the name of love” Ankle boots, 1900/1910 © Münchner Stadtmuseum
„Who are you calling cold-blooded?!”Ladies’ and men’s reptile leather shoes, 1980s © Münchner Stadtmuseum

Many women have endured pain and deformation to make their feet small and dainty in the name of sexual attractiveness. While in China this famously took the shape of lotus or lily feet, and yet the bunions caused by Western fashion are no less telling an example.

No exhibition on this topic would be complete without considering shoes as a practical means of helping people get from A to B. This section focuses on the people who wear the shoes, and explores the meanings attached to the original function of the footwear – primarily to protect the feet and provide support while standing and walking.

The old rubber tires, cork, straw, wood and nails used during the days of wartime hardship are juxtaposed with materials that artists and designers experiment with today, such as tree fungi, corn, pulverized stones and animals’ hoofs.

Some 35 outstanding and in some cases outlandish shoes designed as objects by international artists provide a contrast to the items from the Museum’s multifaceted collection, adding a more abstract note to the exhibition’s concepts and messages. These specific shoes in the exhibition were designed by artists such as: Amber Ambrose, Irene Andessner, Aya Feldman, Cristina Franceschini, Joyce de Gruiter, Xavier G-Solis, Zaha Hadid, JANTAMINIAU, Kaarina Kaikkonen, Kenneth Kirschner, Rachel de Kler, Kobi Levi, Alice van Opstal, Caro Peirs, Peter Popps, Svenja Ritter, Iris Schieferstein, Tali Sorit, Kermit Tesoro, Joyce Verhagen, Betony Vernon, Sousan Youssouf, Erwina Ziomkowska.

Working alongside our Cultural Education team and Inclusion Office, we have sought to bring the exhibition to life by creating interactive stations with audio commentary and the opportunity for visitors to touch and try on some of the shoes. These stations are designed to be naturally inclusive and offer all our visitors a novel sensory experience.

The exhibition is accompanied by catalog of 247 pages and about 450 color illustrations, published by Edition Braus. It is on sale for €29,90 at the Museum’s ticket office and in the online shop.


Curator of the exhibition: Dr. Isabella Belting, Head of Fashion / Textiles Collection