The exhibition “CHRISTIAN DIOR - DESIGNER OF DREAMS” is hosted at the MOT
It has been some months since the exhibition dedicated to the history of Christian Dior started. Finally, after seeing countless images and hearing several comments, the time has come to visit it. I would never have imagined that an exhibition could be so beautiful and full of interesting, captivating, enchanting details from all points of view. Impeccable in the display, masterful in the architectural execution and sensory excitement.
The exhibition “CHRISTIAN DIOR - DESIGNER OF DREAMS” is hosted at the MOT - Museum of Contemporary Art of Tokyo until May 28, 2023. Distributed over two levels, it consists of thirteen themes, from the origins of the French Maison to the present day.
The first room briefly introduces the start of Christian Dior’s career. Dedicated to art, between 1928 and 1934, he was a gallery curator presenting exhibitions of renowned artists such as Picasso, Miró, Matisse, and others. In 1941 he entered the world of fashion, and in 1946 - thanks to the support of Marcel Boussac - he founded the Maison Dior.
“THE NEW LOOK” is his first collection, launched in 1947 and considered a milestone in high fashion history. Here it is presented all in black and white. Composed of black microfiber panels that culminate in a curvilinear shape, the room features a staircase with mannequins accompanied by the acrylic chairs “Medallion of Light” - designed in 2021 by Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka - a contemporary reinterpretation of the celebrated Dior’s Medallion chair.
Hills covered in Washi paper and backlit Tenjiku fabric - supported by a wooden reticular structure - evoke the Japanese landscape and its marvelous gardens. This impressive backdrop welcomes the visitors in the next section, “DIOR AND JAPAN.” A strong bond unites the French Maison with Japan. Dior was the first Western fashion house in Japan in 1953. That year, its clothes were presented for the first time in a fashion show at the Imperial Hotel, designed by US architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The esteem for the designer grew over the years, to the point that the Maison Dior had the honor of making three dresses for Michiko Shoda's wedding with the crown prince Akihito.
This room displays some of the creations of the French Maison, including dresses created with Japanese fabrics by Tatsumura Textile, experts in the research and restoration of ancient fabrics.
The three-dimensional landscape, bright and soft, culminates at the ceiling creating a path that divides the two “vertical gardens.” It is embellished with projections of various motifs to make the space even more enveloping.
“THE DIOR LEGACY” is a tribute to the icons who have enriched the Maison with their work after the designer's untimely death. Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and today Maria Grazia Chiuri have kept the Dior name firm over the years, reinterpreting the values that underlie this brand: fashion that glorifies women, a love of flowers and gardens, and a celebration of art, history and culture.
Simple in its composition but of significant visual impact, the room is set up with eight mini-rooms, delimited by elements of the Japanese tradition, such as Fusuma (rectangular vertical sliding panels on wooden rails at the top and bottom, used to redefine the spaces of a room or as doors) and Sudare (traditional Japanese screens or curtains composed of horizontal slats of wood or bamboo, woven together by twine). Everything is adorned with images of dresses, mannequins and designers' sketches.
A detail will miraculously emerge under the pencil of the artist or through the lens of the camera, as the chance result of an exaggerated attitude or unexpected lighting.
The Japanese photographer Yuriko Takagi pays homage to Christian Dior through the drapery by expressing a crucial concept for him: the “dynamics of life”. This small exhibition is the preamble to one of the environments that most impressed me, “THE DIOR BALL”.
While looking at the photographic exhibition, my companion approached, inviting me to continue quickly toward the corridor with my eyes closed. I didn't understand why, but I got carried away. At its three, I opened my eyes. The expression on my face was ecstatic, and my words were simply “wow”, “wonderful”, “it takes my breath away”. I felt like falling into the void but was also enchanted and amazed.
The overhanging corridor drapes into the museum's atrium, where a sloping floor divides the space creating a double-sided arrangement. The top becomes a single slope with mannequins in sumptuous ball gowns ready for their show. At the top of the hill, a tilted mirror reflects the scenography to infinity. To enrich this exciting set, a projection mapping – starry sky, full moon, lanterns, and golden waterfall - continues incessantly, making the vision extremely pleasant and difficult to abandon. I had a tough time leaving this set, which captivated me in every way. I spent at least twenty minutes looking at it in every direction. But the exhibition continued, and I couldn't wait to find out what other surprises awaited me.
True luxury needs good materials and good workmanship.
This is the philosophy of the Maison Dior, which stake everything on the work of the artisans in the ateliers. The exhibition “THE DIOR ATELIERS” is entirely conceived in white. White cotton is, in fact, the basis on which the artisans make the test garments. The setting evokes the environment in which tailors decorate fabrics by hand. Composed of small white niches - developed at full height - they are illuminated by small light spots, and the mirrored ceiling gives a sense of infinite continuity.
To make the installation dynamic, images are projected onto some fabrics while other mannequins rotate on themselves as if they were dancing.
Dior dreamed of dressing his clients “from head to toe”. In the “COLORAMA” room, all the objects created are exhibited in a curved glass showcase. Thanks to the primary colors used by the stylist, the room appears like a rainbow. Les saisons imaginaires - a work by the Malagasy artist Joël Andrianomearisoa - emphasize this sensation by creating a poetic landscape with the scraps of Dior scarves.
Dior and some of its stylists, great lovers of gardens, projected this passion into their clothes and fashion shows. The “MISS DIOR'S GARDEN” room is an artificial garden inspired by this passion. A wooden path divides the banks of a river made with mirrors. The ceiling is wrapped in white paper that simulates hanging flowers and grass. The sound of the water flowing and birds chirping joyfully accompany the strolling of the visitors.
Many stars wore Dior. From Grace Kelly to Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, from Charlize Theron to Natalie Portman and Miki Nakatani. The section “STARS IN DIOR AND J'ADORE” could not be less brilliant than the stars who wore Dior creations. Illuminated by a starry ceiling and bordered by mirrors on each side, the room embraces circular podiums engraved with the designs of the constellations in the center.
In the next room, the famous bag “LADY DIOR”, created by the designer Gianfranco Ferrè in 1995, is presented in all its splendor. An asymmetrical bookcase, culminating in a vault, contains the iconic bags of the Maison and some of the creations of artists involved in “Lady Dior Art” and “Lady Dior As Seen By Exhibition.”
The last stop before concluding this fantastic exhibition takes us to “DIOR AROUND THE WORLD”. A domed room with concentric surface layers and animated projections is adorned with paper balloons through which the visitor can walk, feeling part of that world in which Christian Dior has expanded.
The exhibition “CHRISTIAN DIOR – DESIGNER OF DREAMS” - designed by the OMA studio in New York under the direction of Shohei Shigematsu, Christy Cheng, Jesse Catalano, and Timothy Ho - will long remain one of the most beautiful and exciting exhibitions I have visited.
Emotions, sensations, creativity, new technologies blended with tradition, and a pinch of inspiration are the components for guaranteed success.
I thank the Dior staff for the opportunity to visit the exhibition during a special opening. I was able to enjoy every single moment with quietness and tranquility.