”Esprit Dior” exhibition-Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art,13th September/10 November 2013


The Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai is proud to host the Esprit Dior exhibition in China in partnership with the House of Dior. The exhibition tells a story of groundbreaking vision and unique savoir-faire, and showcases contributions by contemporary Chinese artists working in a variety of disciplines with a view to addressing the challenges of our era.Esprit Dior bears witness to this interaction between fashion and aesthetics and between fashion and society. The surprising alliance of art and style is echoed in every moment of our everyday experiences, making life more beautiful as a whole.

The « Esprit Dior » exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai recounts the fabulous history of the fabled Paris fashion house that is synonymous with haute couture. On display are some 100 iconic dresses, design sketches, objets d’art, jewellery and perfumes borrowed exceptionally from the house archives. Photographs by Patrick Demarchelier provide a powerful stylistic commentary to guide the visitor through the themes and pieces exhibited. As this highly informative exhibition weaves its way through historical and cultural references, a dialogue emerges between Dior creations and the works of contemporary Chinese painters, sculptors, videomakers and photographers. The exhibition will present the ”Dior Spirit” through 9 different routes.



On 12 February 1947, Christian Dior presented his very first collection at 30, Avenue Montaigne. The designer had taken care to perfume the salons with Miss Dior, his debut scent, which was created as an extension of his outfits. That same day, Christian Dior revolutionised the world of fashion with a groundbreaking silhouette that was remarkable for its cinched waist, full hips and voluptuous bust. Curves were stylised, the body itself idealised. This silhouette and ode to femininity was immediately dubbed the « New Look » by the eminent editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow. The myth of Dior was born. Christian Dior invented new lines every



Christian Dior grew up in a pink house, Les Rhumbs Villa in Granville, France. The rosy hues of a happy childhood were also inspired by the softest pinks to deepest reds of the roses that grew in the garden he and his mother designed. These tender and bold colours represent two sides of femininity that Dior, as a fashion designer, made it his life’s work to honour. A palette of pink and red was de rigueur from 1947. These two colours never ceased to inspire his creations.



In an insightful move, Dior chose to locate his fashion house at 30, Avenue Montaigne. In the wake of his debut collection, it became the landmark of a Paris the rest of the world looked to for fashion and fancy. From 1947 onwards, Christian Dior collections became the hallmark of the Parisienne, a woman of inimitable personality and breathtaking chic. Dior afforded her a full wardrobe for all times of the day. His cocktail dresses and short evening gowns became staples for modern young women for whom his designs allowed the smooth transition from cocktails to dinner or a party. The designer recommended dark colours, black if at all possible. « A little black dress is essential to every woman’s wardrobe, » he believed.



« The garden that guarded my childhood » is how Christian Dior described the garden of the villa in which he was raised in Granville, Normandy. Fascinated by the poetry of this joyous, generous slice of nature, he knew every flower and learnt by heart their Latin names. As a designer, he dreamt of a world filled with women-flowers who would have « soft shoulders, full busts, waists as fine as liana and wide skirts like corolla. » His collections and those of his successors are a neverending ode to flowers in their embroidered or print varieties.


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The Haute Couture studios are the hub of the House of Dior. The story of an Haute Couture collection always begins in the same way: using sketches as a starting point, toiles or preforms are made up from cotton by the Dress and Suit studios and handed over to the Artistic Director who alters them to perfection. Next comes the delicate process of selecting fabric.



As a young man, Christian Dior had a keen interest in architecture. When his parents forbade him from pursuing a career as an architect, he chose to become an art dealer. His forward-thinking mindset, unique eye and resolute taste made him a visionary of the art world. By the tender age of 23, he was associating with and exhibiting artists who would become legends of the 20th century, including Dalí, de Chirico, Calder, Giacometti, Miró, Klee, Ernst and Bérard. Whether painters, poets or composers, Dior was surrounded by artists.



Versailles, epitomy of the sumptuous 18th-century lifestyle and supreme capital of luxury à la française, never ceases to inspire the Dior spirit. Christian Dior sought to imitate this mood of refined 18th-century elegance in founding his fashion house. « Trianon grey » was the chosen shade for the walls and hangings at 30, Avenue Montaigne; the colour was soon renamed « Dior grey ». The medallion-back « queen’s » chair recalls the chairs produced by 18th-century cabinetmaker Delanois. The iconic Fontanges bow is reminiscent of the motifs that adorn Marie-Antoinette furniture. The fabled Dior salons in which the collections were presented were also furnished in 18th-century style.



From the year 1947, the dazzling poetry and beauty of Dior creations dressed the world’s most beautiful women, stars of the silver screen and titled ladies. Dior made it his life’s work to honour the beauty of women and the female figure in an ever more dazzling light. The greatest actresses of Hollywood’s golden age were soon swept up in a vision Dior shared with cinema. Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth all placed their destiny in the hands of Dior, whose job it was to help fulfil expectations of splendour.


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The 1950s ushered in a glorious period for the ball. These gay occasions banished the dark days of war as every ball trumped its predecessor in terms of pomp and splendour. Christian Dior had always been fascinated by parties; for him, a ball was a magical event. He attended all of the great balls of his day, including the sumptuous Bal du Siècle hosted by Charles de Beistegui in Venice in 1951. For his female clients, who were women of the world, actresses and princesses, he designed legendary ballgowns, one more sumptuous than the next.

Museum of Contemporary Art


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