Must Exhibition: ‘Dior: Designer of Dreams’ Dazzles at the Brooklyn Museum

Dior dazzles with a panoply of both edgy newer couture pieces and many of the storied house’s signature classics in the breathtaking, quite fittingly titled exhibit Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, which has just opened this week at the Brooklyn Museum. This once-in-a-lifetime event is the brainchild of Florence Müller, Curator of Textile Art and Fashion at the Denver Art Museum, in collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum’s own Matthew Yokobosky, and Paris based exhibition designer Nathalie Crinière.

Debuting on the heels New York Fashion Week – we were treated to an early tour – it traces nearly seventy years of the exalted fashion house’s presence in New York through more than 200 different pieces. No surprise, many of the items included have been worn by A-list celebs, from the late Princess Grace to Jennifer Lawrence; and for that extra bit of cultural frisson, several the pieces in the show had never been seen before by the public.  

The chronology begins in 1947, with several of Monsieur Dior’s earliest triumphs, and moves progressively through the work of the house’s venerable creative directors, drawing a line to the artists that most vividly influenced them. Consider Yves Saint Laurent, who was inspired by the beatniks, and Marc Bohan, who favored the work of Jackson Pollock. Moving ahead, the show spotlights the extravagant artistic interests of John Galliano (Dior Creative Director from 1996 – 2011, when he was dismissed after a very public controversy), as compared to the more refined tastes of Raf Simons (2012 – 2015), who owns a collection by Sterling Ruby.

The exhibit is taken into the present via a video of the current and first female Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, and the barrier breaking feminist artist Judy Chicago discussing The Female Devine, the architectural installation that served as the backdrop for the Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020 show.

Most conceptually striking are the mannequins wearing some of Dior’s most iconic pieces, placed amidst a periphery of paintings and photos by American artists who have captured some of the house’s famous fashions as worn by preeminent models and celebrities. Richard Avedon’s iconic Dovima and the Elephants is shown amongst a collection of eminent photographs and prints featuring models dressed in the Corolle and En Huit lines, displayed alongside several paintings, including ones by Giovanni Boldini and Paul-César Helleu – the latter who was one of Christian Dior himself’s most favored artists. Works by portrait photographers the likes of Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts and David LaChapelle are also prominent in this expansive, but smartly edited exhibition.

Accentuated by dramatic lighting, clever and innovative placement of the displays, and the soaring open architecture of the museum’s central atrium Beaux Art Court, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is this autumn’s must-see for anyone interested in fashion, cultural history…or with even the slightest of aesthetic inclinations. It runs through February 20th 2022…but see it now, while the incredible buzz is still swirling around it.

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