Palm Springs Art Museum Presents the Acclaimed Exhibition

By Chris Clemens

Palm Springs Art Museum opened 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. The Palm Springs Art Museum showing is funded in part by Kimberly and Roger Swanson, and Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler.

Palm Springs Art Museum is located at 101 Museum Drive in downtown Palm Springs. For more information visit or call (760) 322-4800.

Palm Springs Art Museum is the largest cultural institution in the Coachella Valley and includes three locations in Palm Springs and Palm Desert. The flagship building is located in downtown Palm Springs and features compelling art exhibitions, a vast permanent collection, and the 433-seat Annenberg Theater, all in a 150,000 square foot, architecturally-significant building. Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion features exhibitions and programming that explore the rich topics of architecture and design. Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert is an 8,400 square foot, Silver LEED-certified building named The Galen that presents rotating exhibitions and special collections. It is surrounded by the four-acre Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden featuring important sculpture works. Admission to the Palm Desert location is now free to the public, generously underwritten by Helene V. Galen. For more information, call 760-322-4800, visit, and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.