Last night at the Gagosian Gallery’s Madison Avenue space, twenty of Charlotte Olympia’s signature Dolly shoes were radically reinterpreted for the sake of art. Aptly dubbed Stepping Up for Art, the exhibit—on view for three days—saw twenty contemporary artists including Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Sachs, and George Condo (above) use the high-heeled platform as a blank canvas.
The project’s chief architect was not the brand’s London-based designer, Charlotte Dellal—although she was in attendance and in utter awe of her refashioned platforms—but 16-year-old India Wolf, the daughter of artist Maya Lin and collector Daniel Wolf.
“India approached me after having seen the hand-painted shoes I had done at Neiman Marcus in Bal Harbour during Art Basel Miami—they were painted in the style of contemporary 20th-century artists like Picasso—and she said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we actually did them with living artists in their own way rather than imitating?’ I thought it was a fantastic idea,” offered Dellal.
One year later, Wolf, with some help from her parents (“They advised me in the beginning about how to write the proper letters and how to ask the right people,” she said), was able to secure the participation of leading contemporary artists. Shoes were slashed by Sarah Sze, burned by Tom Sachs, bound by Christo, and photographed by David Levinthal. She also partnered with Studio in a School, a nonprofit organization that promotes arts education in New York City’s underfunded public schools.
Five schools—including PS 196 Bronx, PS 45 Queens, PS 16 Staten Island, PS 39 Brooklyn, and PS 75 Manhattan—also contributed their inventive Dollys to the show. “The kids’ work is so surprising, they don’t disappoint, either,” offered Thomas Cahill, president and CEO of Studio in a School. “That’s one of the lovely things about [Stepping Up for Art], the process and the respect for their work is mirrored by the whole respect that the Gagosian gallery has…these kids will have the memory of this forever.”
For Wolf, this night would surely be more memorable than prom. The Dalton sophomore and toast of the party wore Charlotte Olympia’s blank-canvased Dollys paired with a Spring ’14 Mary Katrantzou graphic print dress. “I’d love to work in art and fashion when I’m older,” she said, later citing Oscar de la Renta and Christopher Kane as two of her favorite designers. “I mean, I don’t wear their clothes. They’re too expensive,” she said with youthful modesty. “Half of my wardrobe is J.Crew and Madewell.”