Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

The House of Dior celebrates its 70th anniversary, with its most comprehensive and illustrious exhibition to date. By Lynette Ow

Exclusive installation of paper flowers in the Gardens room, which displays flower dresses alongside artworks from Monet to Marc Quinn. Photo credit: Dior

The space is covered with thousands of delicate white paper tendrils and vines draping down from overhead. Beneath them stand dresses in all inspiration of flowers: from a chiffon afternoon dress embroidered with cotton daisies to one couture cocktail dress covered in little green feather sprigs. Facing these dresses on one side of the wall, a Monet iris painting is hanging as if in conversation with the gowns.

This is the Dior Garden, one of many rooms in the 32,000-square-foot ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Celebrating 70 years of Maison Dior, it’s a big and bold staging of the brand’s story, and underneath that, a subtle retrospective study of the business in fashion. With over 300 haute couture dresses (many from the museum’s own collection) and 700 accessories across 23 themes curated by the museum’s director Olivier Gabet and Florence Müller, curator of textile art and fashion at the Denver Art Museum, it’s a one-hour minimum walk-through show. The superlatives continue ... welcome to the largest Dior exhibition ever held, and the first in France since 1987.

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Cognoscenti of Art

Art and culture from around the world influenced the work of Christian Dior and his successors. Photo credit: Dior

Then it moves quickly to his days as a gallerist—a room representing the art and friends that inspired him, including Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, and Alberto Giacometti. Ray’s Perpetual Motive and Dalí’s Retrospective Bust of a Woman are on display. In fact, there are approximately 100 art pieces (Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun among them) throughout the show. All these contextualisations of art, furnitures and other objets d’art with Dior’s dresses and designs in the hands of Gabet.

The themes thereafter fuse Monsieur Dior’s work with the designs by the creative directors who followed after his death in 1957: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and the house’s current artistic director for women’s collections, Maria Grazia Chiuri. What’s impressive is that Dior’s original vision is so tightly preserved and meticulously transported through the times since his death, just 10 years after he founded the house.

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