Amanda Foster, killer Heels, short for 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Click image for video.

A Stylistic
of David Bowie's
Life on Stage

Detroit was a special place and for almost 30 years I was convinced that I witnessed the inspiration for the David Bowie song Panic in Detroit.

But no.

Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray (1981) on page 54 of Bowie: An Illustrated Record denote Rolling Stone magazine’s description of the track as ”a paranoid descendant of Martha and the Vandellas' Nowhere to Run”. The Bowie song is also said to be about the 1967 Detroit Riots, a period of civil unrest triggered by police overreaction to a neighborhood “blind pig” (a pay-at-the-door house party).

But for my taste Panic in Detroit was significant of an October night in 1974 when David Bowie was playing the Michigan Palace on Grand Circus Park, an early 20th century movie theatre, that had been recently converted to a nightclub and shortly thereafter reconverted to a rock concert hall. The movie theatre seating was gone and left in its place for orchestra seating were folding wooden chairs, each row of folding chairs connected by thick-gauge wire, so that if one seat moved up or back, the entire row of seats moved up or back.

As my wife, Stacy, and I waited on line to enter the concert hall a disturbance developed among others waiting to enter. The concert-goers were predominantly young, white adults and the skinny was that black youths were weaving through the line and razoring purses and pocketbooks from women attendees. After eventually entering the venue, we took seats in the rear of the orchestra, next to the exit.

The opening band (now forgotten) was to have started at 8 p.m. and didn’t take the stage until well after nine. No surprise there. Which meant that David Bowie and the Mike Garson Band didn’t take the stage until around 10 p.m. This was the tail end of the Diamond Dogs tour and had been renamed the Soul or Philly Dogs Tour.

The first hint of “panic” in the theatre was an expectedly anticipatory audience which, as time passed, became increasingly restless and moved toward the stage. The connected nature of the rows of seating caused row upon row of bodies to lurch toward the stage and though from my perch in the rear of the orchestra I felt relatively safe and secure from the mounting crush of bodies, as I turned to my left the theatre’s rear side exit doors flew open to reveal an alley where a block away Detroit firefighters and a firehose were holding what appeared to be an advancing phalanx of Bowie fans advancing on the now-open exit doors.

And though the exit doors were closed and secured before anything terrible happened, I was, needless to say, overcome with a certain strain of reefer madness, better known as spliff paranoia.

Inside the theatre David Bowie was masterful and took full control of the audience, saving them from themselves as the rows of jerry-rigged seating were scooted by concert-goers away from the stage. No one died that I know of.

David Bowie >>

Promotional photograph of David Bowie for Diamond Dogs, detail, 1974. Photo: Terry O'Neill. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum.

Emma Amos (American, born 1938). Three Figures, 1966. Oil on canvas, 152.4 x 127 cm, detail.

Art in the Wake of the 1960s Civil Rights Era
Activism and artistic practice intersect in Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, a presentation of 103 works by 66 artists that is among the few exhibitions to explore how painting, sculpture, graphics, and photography not only responded to the political and social turmoil of the era but also helped to influence its direction.

Civil Rights Art >>

Peter Paul Rubens, The Bacchanalia on Andros, not dated, Oil on canvas, 200 x 215 cm, detail.

The Legacy of Peter Paul Rubens and His Heirs
Peter Paul Rubens was the Quentin Tarantino of his day, making Flanders one of the world’s foremost regions for painting. The Flemish master-painter developed his own personal style, crafting scenes that exuded lust and were marked by violence, as well as compassion and elegance. These themes inspired artists all over the world for many centuries to come.

Peter Paul Rubens >>

Christopher Williams (American, born 1956). Kodak Three Point Reflection Guide / © 1968, detail.

The Rich, Religious Culture of Byzantium
Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium, explores the artistic and cultural majesty of the Byzantine Empire. The exhibition features 167 objects, including mosaics, icons, frescoes, sculptures, manuscripts, metalwork, jewelry, glass, embroideries, and ceramics, making it the largest and most important collection of Byzantine objects from Greece ever amassed and displayed in Los Angeles.

Art of Byzantium >>

Christopher Williams (American, born 1956). Kodak Three Point Reflection Guide / © 1968, detail.

Christopher Williams, Critiques of Capitalism
The Production Line of Happiness — the first retrospective ever mounted of Christopher Williams (American, b. 1956) — spans the impressive 35-year career of one of the most influential cinephilic artists working in photography. Williams studied at the California Institute of the Arts in the mid to late 1970s under the first wave of West Coast Conceptual artists.

Christopher Williams >>

The Low Spark
of High-Design, High-Heeled Bipedalism

One of the most provocative and iconic objects of desire will be explored in the exhibition Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe, on view at the Brooklyn Museum September 10, 2014, through February 15, 2015. Through more than 160 artfully-crafted historical and contemporary high heels from the seventeenth century through the present, the exhibition examines the mystique and transformative power of the elevated shoe and its varied connections to fantasy, power, and identity.

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe will be organized in six thematic sections — Revival and Reinterpretation, Rising in the East, Glamour and Fetish, Architecture, Metamorphosis, and Space Walk— encompassing early forms of the elevated shoe, architecturally-inspired wedges and platforms, razor-sharp stilettos, and shoes that defy categorization. The exhibition also features six short films inspired by high heels that were specifically commissioned for this exhibition from artists Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, Zach Gold, Steven Klein, Nick Knight, Marilyn Minter, and Rashaad Newsome.

The objects, both traditionally made and conceptual in nature, explore and play with the elevated shoe’s sculptural, architectural, and artistic possibilities. Early shoes on view include mid-seventeenth century Italian chopines made of silk, leather, and wood, European leather and metal pattens from the eighteenth century, and nineteenth-century cotton and silk embroidered Manchu platform shoes from China. Other highlights of Killer Heels are Marilyn Monroe’s Ferragamo stilettos (1959); stiletto mules of silk, metal, and glass by Roger Vivier for House of Dior (1960); and a wool “heel hat” made by Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Salvador Dalí (1937-38). Contemporary heels in the exhibition include “Printz,” from Christian Louboutin’s Spring/Summer 2013-14 collection; Zaha Hadid’s chromed vinyl rubber, kid nappa leather, and fiberglass “Nova” shoe (2013), made in collaboration with United Nude; Iris van Herpen’s 3-D printed heel, “Beyond Wilderness” (2013); a black leather platform bootie with an 8-inch heel designed by Rem D. Koolhaas for Lady Gaga (2012); and Céline’s fur pump (2013) covered in mink.

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe is organized by Lisa Small, Curator of Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, and will present works on loan from both established and emerging designers and fashion houses, including Manolo Blahnik, Chanel, Tom Ford, Zaha Hadid, Pierre Hardy, Iris van Herpen, Nicholas Kirkwood, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Winde Rienstra, Elsa Schiaparelli, Noritaka Tatehana, and Vivienne Westwood, as well as works from the Bata Shoe Museum and the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that include classic shoes by André Perugia, Pietro Yantorny, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roger Vivier, and Beth Levine.

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition and will include essays by Lisa Small; Stefano Tonchi, Editor-in-Chief of W Magazine; and Caroline Weber, Associate Professor of French at Barnard College and author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. The exhibition will travel to venues to be announced.

Killer Heels >>

PChristian Louboutin. Metropolis, Fall/Winter 2010-11. Calfskin and silver spikes. Courtesy of Christian Louboutin. Photo: Jay Zukerkorn.