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Dior in Dallas

The Dallas Museum of Art’s iconic new exhibition is all about the House of Dior

                                                                                              by Ilia Sybil Sdralli

Christian Dior was the pioneering French couturier who revolutionized fashion and created his fashion powerhouse set to be at the forefront of style and innovation. His work has been widely explored and studies and the subject of several impressive museum retrospectives in all over the world. He is the couturier associated with the iconic New Look and the re-introduction of strong feminity straight after the reserved fashions of the Second World War period-and perceived as one of the most groundbreaking of all time.

This summer, the Dallas Museum of Art is hosting perhaps its most ambitions exhibition-and it’s all dedicated to the work of Mr. Dior and the talented designers that followed at the helm of his historical house. The exhibition, “Dior: From Paris to the World,” was initially a great success when started in Paris and then transported to the Denver Art Museum, the only other American venue to host it. “The House of Dior has been a legendary force in fashion and visual culture for decades and continues to be an important influence that blurs the lines between fashion and art,” said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director.

With the addition of thirty additional dresses exclusively for the DMA, the Dallas exhibition is perhaps the most ambitious exhibition of all. It is curated by the museum’s decorative arts curator, Sarah Schleuning and designed by architect Shohei Shigematsu who ambitiously transformed the inside of the museum’s central space into a stage resembling a fashion catwalk-and sometimes even a ‘fashion cathedral’. In fact, as chief curator Sarah Schleuning described it: “The exhibition takes audiences through more than seven decades of innovation, bringing together the most exciting, dynamic, and pivotal pieces.”

The Dallas exhibition is a massive tale about not only monsieur Dior but the overall history of the House of Dior and the designers that shaped its vision. Nearly 200 dresses –some 500 exhibits in total are being showcased by no less than seven prominent designers that worked for Dior covering some 70 years of history. The curatorial approach was one of an open dialogue between the past and the future by presenting the work of chief designers Yves St. Laurent, John Galliano and today’s design head Maria Grazia Chiuri. Sarah Schleuning called her work as an ambition to “tell the story of this celebrated haute couture house and to create an enchanting experience for visitors “aiming to “give them a new appreciation for the artistry of fashion and the legacy of Dior.” 

Dallas has a special, strong connection with Christian Dior. It is during Dior’s first trip to the US in 1947 that the designer visited Dallas to be honored with the Neiman Marcus Award for his fashion service from Stanley Marcus, the founder of Neiman Marcus himself. In fact, he was one of the early supporters of Dior’s mastery and one that campaigned for Dior to be widely recognized as a pioneer couturier-in a historical time where his current work was received with some criticism. Some 70 years later, Dallas is in fact paying tribute to the genius of Christian Dior and his legacy yet another time.

Dior: From Paris to the World is organized by the Denver Art Museum in association with the Dallas Museum of Art. The exhibition in Dallas is presented by PNC with leadership support by Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers.