For thirty years now, the Bata Museum in Toronto, Canada, has been exhibiting its impressive collection of 15,000 shoes, spanning more than 4,500 years of history.
The Bata Shoe Museum (BSM), housed in architect Raymond Moriyama’s iconic building, celebrates the role, style, function, and evolution of footwear.
Four galleries within the museum are open to the discovery of these objects of desire: from the permanent exhibition, All About Shoes, which reflects more than 4,500 years of history before our era, to temporary exhibitions, such as Future Now, which focuses on the most futuristic footwear through advanced technology, 3D printing, and the metaverse.
Like Marty McFly’s self-lacing Nike from Back to the Future, Zaha Hadid’s sculptural NOVA, recycled Adidas with Parley of the Oceans, RTFKT’s retro Atari sneakers, and Wilson Chandler’s CryptoKickers. At the origin of the institution? Sonja Bata (1926-2018), the wife of the founder of Bata. She was responsible for one of the most important collections in the world, as well as the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation, an international footwear research center, which led to the creation of the museum in 1995.
The collector and philanthropist was passionate about telling their story, believing that “shoes could tell a lot about people’s lives, their environment, their social status, their beliefs.”
To date, the museum has 15,000 objects. While the 16th-century Italian platform pint is among the great treasures, others are not to be outdone. The WSO holds a pair of chestnut-cutting soles, ancient Egyptian sandals, archaeological footwear from the first civilizations on Earth, medieval models, and North American and circumpolar natives.
Not to mention those of celebrities (Queen Victoria’s ballroom slippers, Robert Redford’s cowboy boots, Elton John’s silver and monogrammed platform boots, Elvis Presley’s blue patent loafers, Karen Kain’s ballerinas…). To understand this global obsession, the recent exhibition, Obsessed, illustrates how industrialization has pushed consumption, turning designers into stars and shoes into valuable objects. What a way to find a shoe to fit!
Bata Shoe Museum
327 Bloor Street West, Toronto – Future Now exhibition
Until November 1, 2023
Obsessed exhibition, since October 19, 2022
Credits : @Bata Shoe Museum by Salina Kassam