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
Christian Dior, Couturier du rêve
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whenever I’m in Paris next time I will check for Arts décoratifs’ new temporary offering, as usual.
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Next time: Moonstone