Picture Perfect

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Dior Exhibition

We are back from our almost spontaneous, short trip to Paris and, as usual, Paris delighted us. We saw a couple of our best-ofs, including the Louvre and the towers of Notre Dame and we lived in the middle of the Latin Quarter, which might be the best area we’ve stayed so far in Paris: it managed to be both lively and quiet somehow and we valued it. We also had a bit of an adventure when we missed our flight back (or just the check-in, which was even more infuriating) – in case that never happened to you, keep it that way because it’s not fun. But we managed to return (and it only took 8 more hours and way. Too. Much. Money) so that I can share with you the impressions made by the exhibition

er-diorcouturierdureveChristian Dior, Couturier du rêve

Category: Exhibitions

Find it in: Musée des Arts décoratifs (until January next year)

What it is:
The biggest ad you’ve ever seen – but also a huge exhibition about the career of Christian Dior: his life, his designs and his fashion house, including information about other designers who took over as heads of the House of Dior after his death. It takes up a large part of the museum and shows a lot of archival information, movies and, of course, dresses.

How I found it:
While Arts décoratifs is not the best museum in Paris, it has two advantages: it’s located next to the Louvre and it is included in Museum Pass, a ticket for many museums in Paris. So every time we’re around we drop in because at least twice we saw very interesting temporary exhibitions there – any very well-designed ones, too. The Dior exhibition cost extra so we almost skipped it but the entry to the exhibition that we saw from the hallway looked so impressive that we decided to return the next day just to see the design of the whole thing, even if we didn’t find the theme all that exciting.

Summary judgment:
It is a magnificently looking exhibition about a somewhat interesting subject. But even if you’re not into fashion, it’s likely to impress you with its scale and effort.

Best things about it:
The design is breathtaking. This is clearly an exhibition designed and executed by someone with a keen eye and a huge budget. Every room is governed by a different visual idea – yet not so different as to cause chaos and a consistent dominance of black and white helps to create a classy, unified look. The entrance, which attracted us in the first place, recreates the entrance to Dior’s boutique with smartly placed screens showing movies. One of the early rooms called Colorama contains only glass cases going on and on, full of everything Dior (shoes, cosmetics, accessories, dress models) arranged by color and it’s a brilliant way of showing the scale of Dior’s enterprise. My favorite design bit was the room focused on floral inspirations whose ceiling is completely covered by white paper flowers and leaves: and if that wasn’t enough, each part has different kinds of plants – roses, ivy etc. There is also a white room filled with simple, white models of dresses that focuses on the technical aspects of sewing (complete with a live seamstress that answers questions) followed by a black room showing the history of Dior through iconic dresses (black and red ones). It all culminates in a bombastic room full of ball gowns with a fairy-tale-like lighting and I dare you not to be impressed by the whole thing. That was by far the most spectacularly constructed exhibition I’ve ever seen.

Worst things about it:
This is clearly a huge event in Paris because even two months after the opening you wait in line for the tickets. But worse still, there are so many people inside that you need to manoeuvre through the crowd rather than just focus on the show and it’s pretty hot in some rooms. Sounds like a minor thing but it gets a bit jarring.

Other pluses:
Some of the designs are lovely to look at, particularly in the ball room, even if you are not excessively interested in fashion. I imagine that if you are, it must be a heavenly experience.
Many beautiful fashion photographs from different periods are also displayed, including great shots by Avedon among others. Also, older fashion designers were great sketch artists and you can see some of their sketches.
The exhibition does justice not only to Dior himself but also to other heads of the house who followed him, including Galliano and Saint Laurent, and this, together with other historical bits, has a bit of an educational function.
In the whole opulence of the show it becomes an afterthought but it shouldn’t be: Dior’s artistic inspirations are illustrated with some loaned paintings (from d’Orsay and other places) which by themselves would be worth visiting an exhibition, at least in any other city.

Other minuses:
This is minor but the typeface used on some of the captions is tiresome to read in the highly contrasted light in the black rooms. That would be easy to fix by choosing a different variant of the same typeface. (I had to.)

How it enriched my life:
Actually, it taught me a lot about the history of fashion, a subject of which I have a very loose, blurry idea. It also delighted me with the design of the exhibition, raising the bar of my expectations in this area. So high.

Fun fact:
As I was looking at the dresses and liking some of them I realized that I would have nowhere to wear a Dior even if I could and wanted to buy one. Not only do I not go to this kind of events often but also the people I meet wouldn’t probably recognize how much money and effort I put into my dress so what’s the point? And this was a happy realization in a way because otherwise I might get frustrated about how I can’t really afford any of those dresses on display.

Follow-up:
Whenever I’m in Paris next time I will check for Arts décoratifs’ new temporary offering, as usual.

Recommended for:
A must for anyone interested in fashion in any way. Even more so for designers of exhibitions. But I believe this exhibition has something to offer to other people as well, as long as they’re interested in history, art or room lighting.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Moonstone

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Picture Perfect

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Bauhaus in Motion

When we were in Berlin we didn’t have as much time for sightseeing as we would’ve wanted but we listed a few attractions we were determined to see and this included the Bauhaus-Archiv, the museum collecting and curating all things Bauhaus. At the time (and still) the museum has been presenting an exhibition called

er-bauhausinmotionBauhaus in Motion

Category: Events

What it is:
A temporary exhibition housed in the Bauhaus-Archiv which focuses on the notion of movement in the teachings and the very history of Bauhaus, the extremely influential design school operating in 1919–1933 in Germany (which you probably knew, sorry). As Bauhaus is such a cornerstone in the history of modernism and we are, to a large extent, modernists at heart, we did feel the deep need to visit the museum. The exhibition itself shows some students’ and professors’ works created in the classes and studios and archival photographs with some – not a lot – information printed on the walls.

How I found it:
I think our friend Z, who was planning her own Berlin trip, mentioned the Archive and then we just found it in the travel guide. We had no idea the exhibition we saw was temporary until we read about it later.

Summary judgment:
It was not a bad exhibition but altogether I found it disappointing (and, frankly, not quite worth the admission price). I would’ve wanted to see at least one of these two things: either four times as many exhibits or a really impressive design of the exhibition that would make the idea immediately clear. Ideally both.

Best things about it:
Some of the exhibits were interesting – many in the predictable way but some surprised me, particularly photos from PE classes (which horrified me in its own way to think that the estimable Bauhaus school tortured its students with PE classes).

Worst things about it:
As I already said, it was too small, which made it both unsatisfactory and random-looking. There were simply not enough exhibits (and not enough space, probably) to tell a captivating story.

Other pluses:
The building is quite nice and located in a curious area: an embassy paradise where all the buildings are huge and house various embassies of more and less exotic countries. It made for a pleasant walk to get there, particularly that the Tiergarten was partly open that day despite the church day celebrations and we could finally see most of this lovely park.
As for the exhibition itself, knowing that this was a temporary exhibition focused on a particular aspect of the Bauhaus’ history makes it better because I can assume that visiting other smallish exhibitions like this one creates quite a detailed knowledge about the Bauhaus. Too bad we live too far to make it a habit.

Other minuses:
The cafeteria was not great. We love visiting museum cafeterias but most of the places we visited in Berlin disappointed in this respect.
Also, I know it was before renovations but the exhibition space wasn’t really that great (neither the architecture nor lighting) and the lack of legible design for the exhibition made it hard to understand the particular selection of exhibits.

How it enriched my life:
I learned about those PE classes in the Bauhaus school. It was also interesting to see the course projects that students made. Also, the trip made for a rather pleasant walk.

Fun fact:
You can’t buy much of proper food in the museum but you can buy copies of original Bauhaus designs, like chess sets and a lot of toys and cups. They are fun to look at but crazy overpriced.

Follow-up:
I imagine when we visit Berlin some time after the renovations in the museum we will be happy to revisit it and hopefully by then there will be a more impressive and well-rounded collection on display.

Recommended for:
People interested in the history of design and modernism. People with no patience for exhibitions that take a lot of time to see.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: God Don’t Like Ugly

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Going Places

Mildly (Un)Enthusiastic Review: Typo Berlin 2017

I returned recently from Berlin where R and I took part in Typo Berlin, an annual design conference, and I have opinions.

er-typoberlin17Typo Berlin 2017

Category: Events

What it is:
As I said, an annual international design conference with lectures by really well-known and lesser-known speakers from around the world (but mostly from Berlin, London and the USA).

How I found it:
Ah, back when I was a design student, Typo Berlin was a fetish some of our professors talked about in dreamy voices and I was sure it must be this transcendental (design) experience that would improve my skills and understanding tenfold and make me buddies with my design heroes. However, the conference has always been quite expensive, absolutely beyond what I could have afforded as a student, and I still wouldn’t have wanted to go at full price even now, except I used a special price for school workers.

Summary judgment:
How could anything live up to the expectations above? Of course it couldn’t nor did I expect it to, really. But even with my considerably lowered expectations it still managed to disappoint me in a few minor ways.

Best things about it:
It was good to get it out of our system, most of all – see it for ourselves and for what it was.
But I also enjoyed some lectures, particularly Oliver Jeffers’, whose books I always liked and who turned out to be quite an entertaining performer, speaking with a lot of Irish swagger and humor.

Worst things about it:
The worst thing to me was how most of the speakers were already over design and all they wanted to talk about was, well, anything else. A lot of the talks ran like this: “You know me from this and that, cool, but instead I want to talk about this hobby I’ve been really getting into recently.” And then instead of typography they would discuss potato salad arrangements. And I really wanted to hear them talk about the stuff I admire them for, interesting as their side culinary explorations might be.

Other pluses:
Luckily not all the speakers were like that. Some just talked about the recent work they’d been doing and it was interesting enough. A few of them even delivered what you could call design stand-up and that was pretty fun. The conference is also held in a building in Tiergarten, a huge, forest-like park and we enjoyed exploring that during boring points of the program, especially with wild rabbits roaming the place.

Other minuses:
All those minor things I mentioned. It was absolutely impossible to get into the workshop we wanted as it only admitted about ten people or so. Many lectures were overly self-indulgent. Sometimes we felt like people who only came there to provide the audience and financing for a group of strangers to allow them to tell each other how they like one another – and watching people pat each others’ backs is a pretty boring spectator sport.
It wasn’t also the greatest weekend for sightseeing in Berlin, with some sort of churches’ day and soccer finale: it was crowded, the train station was out of lockers and, worst of all, they closed off a large section of the park.

How it enriched my life:
Now I know I wasn’t missing all that much all those times I couldn’t afford to go to the conference. I enjoyed seeing some of the speakers live and also comparing their different styles of public speaking. Also, see below.

Fun fact:
After a couple of years of fangirling over a Canadian designer Marian Bantjes I finally learned how to pronounce her name. I still would’ve preferred to hear her speak rather than hear her mentioned by someone else but I enjoyed that anyway because I love her work and I discovered she’s terribly nice once she answered my email with my PhD thesis questions.

Follow-up:
I’m starting to think I would only consider coming back to another Typo Berlin for an extremely select lineup of speakers that would definitely have to include Marian Bantjes.

Recommended for:
Fans of graphic design who don’t necessarily want to hear anything specific or technical. People who love Berlin.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Next time: The Joy Luck Club

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Celebrations

Have Yourselves a Yummy Christmas

redesign-xmas2015Here I am, not gone from blogging for ever but certainly for a while. I’ve got a better explanation than usual: since September I’m a mom and it leaves little time for writing (or even – gasp – reading) and so until I arrange things better I’m doing the bare minimum. At any rate, we baked ginger cookies (see above) and made the Christmas card (likewise) so maybe things are getting back on track. At any rate, have a wonderful Christmas time and I’ll be posting whenever I can.

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Personalness

It’s My Birthday

And 30th at that.

Here’s a little poster we developed for the occasion with tons of information about what I can’t do.

e-birthday-poster

Despite what this suggests there are some things I can do, too, but hey, at least there’s a lot of challenge for the future. More info and details on the poster can be found on our design blog.

Frankly, I imagined myself in a different place at 30, if I thought about myself so ancient at all, but that’s not to say things are bad. I turned out to be a later bloomer in some respects but I’m actually enjoying the whole journey. And as I always considered birthdays personal holidays, I’m going to spend the day doing fun things.

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