Dior: From Paris to the World,” which opens Sunday at the Dallas Museum of Art, may have a French accent, but with a local twist
Following its exceptional success at the Denver Art Museum, the exhibition Dior: From Paris to the World is arriving, in a new version, at the Dallas Museum of Art from May 19th to September 1st, 2019. This retrospective celebrates more than seventy years of haute couture, in a voyage through time and the numerous countries explored by the founding couturier and his successors.
“As a Parisian couturier, I had to know not only the needs of Frenchwomen, but also those of elegant women all over the world,” wrote Christian Dior. In March 1957, a giant pair of scissors in hand, he became the first French couturier to grace the cover of the prestigious Time Magazine, as though he were preparing to fashion the world with his visionary gaze. This image is not far removed from reality. In fact, it is an exact reflection. Ten years earlier, on February 12th, 1947, Carmel Snow, the editor-in-chief of another major American publication, Harper’s Bazaar, had deified the couturier, and he immediately became the ambassador for Parisian elegance overseas, even before he had begun traveling the world.
After the Denver Art Museum, the exhibition Dior: from Paris to the World now has been reinterpreted by the Dallas Museum of Art, in Texas. The museum will present creations exhibited for the first time, ranging from Christian Dior’s New Look to the latest haute couture collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri, dedicated to the enchanting world of the circus.
It will also feature more than 200 exceptional pieces, revealing the behind-the-scenes and the richness of the House’s universe, including haute couture styles and toile prototypes from the atelier that were used to bring collections to life, as well as precious photographs, never-before seen film footage, rare archives, original sketches and objects related to Dior perfumes and makeup. This exhibition recounts the extraordinary destiny of the French couturier, who was idolized by Hollywood and the world’s biggest stars, a sublime homage to his creative vision and that of his successors.
The scenography, which was readapted especially for this museum, was designed by the architect Shohei Shigematsu*, who also created the set for the prior show at the Denver Art Museum. Upon entering, the visitor is plunged into the magic and the dream of 30 Avenue Montaigne, through an immersive décor, before discovering fifteen thematic spaces, moving from icons (the Bar jacket, the manifesto for the New Look, opens the exhibition) to a love of art and foreign cultures. Not forgetting, of course, the “Ladies in Dior”: faithful muses, ardent clients or famous stars, from Marilyn Monroe to Natalie Portman.
Illustrating this odyssey through time and across continents is an unprecedented dialogue with inspiring works. Designs by Yves Saint Laurent for Dior find a counterpoint in Marlon Brando’s role in the film The Wild One; abstract prints by Marc Bohan resonate with the power of Cathedral, Jackson Pollock’s striking painting; Gianfranco Ferré’s baroque spirit interacts with a majestic portrait painted by Alessandro Allori; John Galliano’s extravagance mixes with a South American religious painting belonging to the Dallas Museum of Art, and Raf Simons’ passion for contemporary art is revealed through a painting by Sterling Ruby, one of the inspirations behind his first show for Dior, and, lastly, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminist spirit and fascination for women artists emerges in The Chair, the Surrealist work by Leonora Carrington.
Punctuating this fabulous journey, in which art mingles with fashion, a space dedicated to travel unveils a rare archival scrapbook complete with press clippings, photographs, advertisements and sketches – based on Christian Dior’s fashion show in Dallas in 1954, where he presented the H line. His adventure with the American city began in 1947, when he received the Oscar of fashion.
“I was in the midst of working for my second collection when I received a letter from the house of Neiman Marcus inviting me to come to Dallas, Texas, to receive an Oscar. (…) Re-reading the letter, I discovered that the Oscar has been instituted during the war and this was the first time it had been awarded to a French couturier. I had won this honor with my very first collection!” Christian Dior recounted in his memoirs.
And so it was that in 1947, just a few months after the New Look revolution, he received the trophy awarded annually by the American luxury department store. The symbol of a steadfast friendship with the United States, it also marked the beginning of his international expansion and worldwide travels. And so it was that the couturier penned the history of his Parisian House far beyond the history of fashion itself, in an international, everlasting and artistic sense. In the same vein, 10 years later, his successor Yves Saint Laurent would also travel to Dallas to receive the prestigious Neiman Marcus Award for Dior.
The curation of Dior: From Paris to the World has been entrusted to Sarah Schleuning,the senior curator of decorative arts and design at the Dallas Museum of Art, in collaboration with Florence Müller, who curated the earlier edition at the Denver Art Museum as well as the hugely successful Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
This exhibition in Dallas, Texas, has been made possible thanks to the contributions of the Dior Heritage archives and the House of Dior. It also has benefitted from loans from some of the most important American museums, including the Chicago History Museum and the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, as well as private collectors such as Hamish Bowles.
* Shohei Shigematsu is currently the Director of the New York-based architecture firm OMA, founded by Rem Koolhaas, and was the scenographer for the exhibition Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2016)
© Courtesy of Christian Dior Couture