Louboutin Exhibition

L’Exhibition[niste] by Olivier Gabet

Christian Louboutin: L’Exhibition[niste], an entertaining survey of iconic shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s vivid career and work currently running in Paris at the Palais de la Porte Dorée museum in the 12th arrondissement until January 3rd, 2021.

Organized by Olivier Gabet who has serious fashion chops as he curated the mega Christian Dior Couturier du rêve show at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs celebrating the 70th anniversary of Christian Dior with an exceptional retrospective in 2017. He also gave Achtung access to the first major Bauhaus exhibition in France in 2016 as he is also the director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. We happily accepted the invitation and romped through the show with models and photographer Alexey Kiselev for a memorable editorial.

Christian Louboutin: L’Exhibition[niste], occupies the beautiful Art déco-style Palais de la Porte Dorée, inaugurated during the Paris Colonial Exposition in 1931 and later remodeled as The National Museum of Immigration History.

Palais de la Porte Dorée (photo by AD).

Christian Louboutin’s trademark: the red sole.

Left: Tribute to the Pensée shoe from the exhibition’s Masterpiece room. Right: Silk jacket with applicator flower brooch and matching pants GIORGIO ARMANI, Crest on the Nile flats in deep red velvet with gold embroidery CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN.

Left: Ronfifi shoe, hand-made stain-glass by La Maison du Vitrail Paris.

The show stands out from normal fashion exhibitons by far. It feels like an open invitation into Louboutin’s life, his CV, his personal taste, his love for art, architecture, travel and fetish. Accompanying Louboutin’s own work is a series of artworks commissioned by the designer to enable this immersive journey with elements like an installation by leather sculptors Whitaker & Malem or custom made stained glass panels. The exhibit starts with a wall-covering grid of high heel molds in bold red, clearly a reference to the legendary red soles he debuted in 1992 and which made him famous.

Leather sculptures (inspired in Arielle Dombasle’s body) by duo Whitaker & Malem from the exhibition’s Nudes room.

Christian Louboutin, several years after the creation of the house (photo courtesy of Christian Louboutin).

Leather sculptures by duo Whitaker & Malem from the exhibition’s Nudes room.

Olivier Gabet: “The entire exhibition is a challenge: how to give a sense of the passage of time without stopping it, how to show the designer’s effervescence without sterilizing it, how to reveal what constituted the network of such vital inspirations and friendships? Christian Louboutin chose a generous approach, reflecting his personality, an imagination and a freedom rooted in a sound knowledge of the world, of art and fashion, a voyage in which inventiveness, emotion and know-how, taste for showmanship and sense of humor are never dissociated. A child of the Palace (the iconic Parisian nightclub in the late 70s and early 80s), Christian Louboutin connected his work and his name very early on to inclusive and positive figures, athletes or musicians, as illustrated by the famous photo on the cover of the New York Post in memory of Aretha Franklin: Going in style, dressed in peace: Fire-red Louboutins, gold-plated coffin, three costume changes.”

Left: Richard: Double-breasted wool jacket and pleated pants DIEHM BESPOKE, black shirt DIOR MEN, Elisa bag with chain attachment CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN; Marlene: Patterned satin dress with metal inserts PACO RABANNE, Elisa belt-bag made of leopard printed reflective nylon with silver chain shoulder strap CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN. Right: The Maquereau shoe, Christian Louboutin’s first creation made in 1988.

The Tropical Aquarium of the Palais de la Porte Dorée, a source of inspiration for Christian Louboutin’s creations.

Christian Louboutin: “L’Exhibition[niste] is a title that came to me quite quickly. It is a play on the idea of an exhibit and the act of exhibitionism. I’ve put a lot of myself in this project from both a professional and personal perspective.

I grew up in the 12th arrondissement and attended the Elisa Lemonnier and Paul Valéry lycées, just behind the Palais de la Porte Dorée. I used to spend hours in the cinemas on Avenue Daumesnil, which screened Indian and Egyptian movies at the time. On the weekends, I would regularly go and daydream at the Tropical Aquarium of the Palais de la Porte Dorée dazzled by the color and luminosity of tropical fish, and at the Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie.

Right: Crystal shoe on a Palanquin made in Seville with Sabyasachi embroideries from the exhibition’s Treasure room.

Granny room inspired by Pierre Molinier’s work. An optical play.

I have always been fascinated by the architectural beauty and decorative richness of the Palais de la Porte Dorée, which played a key role in my life. This is where I discovered the diversity of applied and decorative arts for the first time. I was intrigued by the refinement and the monumentality of Alfred Auguste Janniot’s bas-reliefs,
the spectacular frescoes of Ducos de La Haille, and the Ruhlmann and Printz furniture. This is also where I saw a drawing of a shoe for the first time. I immersed myself in all of these patterns – abstract and figurative – and they formed a subconscious repertoire of shapes, colors, and textures that never ceased to influence my imagination

Right: Suit DIEHM BESPOKE, shirt DIOR MEN, suede and patent leather Dandy me flats with attached handkerchief detail with polka dots CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN.

Left: Marlene Dietrich jacket. Right: My Inner Beast 1, 2017, ceramic, by Malene Hartmann Rasmussen (collection Ömer Koç). Both from the exhibition’s Musée Imaginaire.

Infused with a passion for travel – real or imaginary – my universe consists of a juxtaposition of references borrowed from the arts and cultures of the world, in theater, literature or cinema. There are inescapable moments, because that is also part of my life, but it is primarily an ever-changing process of backs and forths, of discoveries, rediscoveries and above all, encounters. This exhibition showcases the precious relationships that have marked my journey, through working with craftsmen who possess unique expertise as well as collaborations with artists who are dear to me. It includes not only inspirations, but also works that I care about, some of which have been part of my life for several decades.”

Left: Jacket DIEHM BESPOKE, shirt DIOR MEN, Elisa bag with chain attachment CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN. Right: Shoes from a collaboration between David Lynch and Christian Louboutin in 2008, from the exhibition’s Fetish room.

Left: Art installation by Imran Qureshi for the exhibition’s Treasure room. Right: Boots from a collaboration between David Lynch and Christian Louboutin in 2008, from the exhibition’s Fetish room.


MODELS: Richard Drews/Izaio, Konrad/Mega Model Agency, Marlene O./M4 Models

HAIR: Fraser Francis

MAKE-UP: Samira Manss

Photographed in Berlin-Kreuzberg on March 13th, 2020. 


Photographed in Paris on March 9th, 2020.