The Weird and Wonderful World of Shoe Art

When people talk about shoes by Ya’ara Keydar, they aren’t talking about fashion design. Keydar is a fashion historian and curator known for her exhibits that track the evolution of women’s fashion staples throughout the world. She also teaches Fashion at Museums at NYUSPS in their Center for Applied Liberal Arts. This winter, Keydar has taken her interest in art and fashion in a new direction, focusing on the evolution of artistic shoes from around the world. If you can make it to New York City before Valentine’s Day, these visionary shoes will be on display at the Parasol Projects Gallery. If you can’t make it before the display moves on, I’ve brought some of the most iconic pieces from this shoe exhibit to you.

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The university presenting this shoe exhibit is the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Founded in 1906, the school boasts alumni like innovative designer Kobi Levi. These double boots were an overnight Internet sensation in 2010 and only grew in fame when Lady Gaga slipped them on for her ‘Born This Way’ video later that year. If you’re asking yourself why anyone would wear such cumbersome footwear, Keydar has achieved her goal. Get ready for more weird shoes that blur the lines between art and fashion.

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Like many of the shoes in Keydar’s intriguing exhibit, the little box shoe was designed by a current student. The design imagines the famous platform shoe as an unceremonious block you can put your foot inside. If you though heels were bad, try walking around wearing two entire blocks. The question posed here isn’t about shoes as art, but shoes as structure. What architectural principles are at play in staple footwear?

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This Latin saying means ‘argument to absurdity.’ The phrase is commonly used to describe a form of argument that attempts to disprove something by showing its ridiculous conclusion. Argumentum ad absurdum can also prove something by showing the chaos that would result without it. Eisner’s design plays with both ideas. These visionary shoes are a riff on the unique structure of stilettos and sandals. While I doubt anyone will ever wear such strange, artist-designed footwear in real life, the concept behind this design makes interesting material for a fashion blog.

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Everything that works about heels is completely deconstructed in this design by Eitan Bartal. You can’t wear this shoe traditionally because leather material covering the heel blocks your foot. If you lie down to slip the shoe on following the natural border of it, the out-of-place stiletto heel makes it impossible to bend your foot to fit the shoe. To further blow your mind, Keydar asks if this is even a shoe at all. What makes a shoe a shoe? Is it the way it looks or the actual function of being wearing it to protect your feet? If you need something philosophical to freak out about on lonely nights, stick one of these in your closet.

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The story of Cinderella has romanticized the glass slipper. Who cares that glass can break and cover your foot in cuts and bruises? Shpeizman’s artistic shoe carries on the romantic ideal of the glass slipper with a beautiful color-infused shoe. Made with dyed glass, this visionary shoe looks like elven footwear straight out of Lord of the Rings. Another one of those sculptures we call a shoe because it looks like a shoe, this one doesn’t have all the confusing philosophical weight of the Anti-Heel. Just gaze for a while and move on.

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These shoes adopt the heel as a sculpting device. The classic European shoe propped up by each carefully-carved heel is reminiscent of iconic ancient statues from Egyptian lore. There’s shading left on the figures from the wood used to carve them, a classic wood-carving technique. Saig layers historical designs, diverse cultures, and unique techniques in these artistic shoes. There’s a distinct place where the statuettes join the shoe design, a clear symbolic fusion of sculpture and shoe, art and fashion. Doesn’t get much more obvious than this.

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Keydar’s shoe exhibit focuses a lot on the past. These geometric stilettos imagine what artistic shoes will look like in the future. Their design recalls the advent of commonplace 3D printers in fashion workshops of 2016. The white, angular structure of these shoes and the marble-like swirl on their soles feel modern and contemporary. Unlike most of the visionary shoes on this list, these futuristic stilettos are shoes you might actually consider wearing. They’re basically conventional heels with a forward-thinking twist.

The Walk of Art: Visionary Shoes exhibit has many more footwear sculptures for you to check out online or in person. If you’re really passionate about exotic shoes, Keydar has given you a fun way to see how crazy artistic shoes can really get.


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