Today I had the pleasure of seeing the sublime (soo-bleem) Dior exhibit at the musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The retrospective marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of one of the most influential couture houses of the 20th century and it will continue until January 7, 2018. It opened on July 5 and two weeks later, the lines to get in are still crazy long. If you are going to check it out, it would be well worth your while to buy a billet coupe file on-line that allows you express access for the same fee as buying your ticket at the door. That probably saved me at least a one hour wait to get in. There were so many people inside that I wished that I had been able to come just as the exhibit opened to avoid some of the crush.
The exhibit spreads across both halves of the museum and it covers two floors, so once you do get in, you will have plenty to enjoy. It starts with photos and documents chronicling the couturier’s childhood, then moves to the avant-garde art gallery that he ran with a partner that did not achieve lasting commercial success, before moving to his explosion into the world of couture.
The “chromatic” rooms displayed dresses, hats, purses and other accessories in a wave of color, starting with white and then moving through all of the colors of the Dior rainbow before terminating with the color that he felt was the most elegant of all – black. I was most fascinated with the miniature dresses made by the Dior seamstresses from the original designs.
Another room featured Versailles inspired dresses, designed by John Galliano, one of the successors of Christian Dior, who died after only ten years at the helm of his couture house.
Then there was a room whose ceiling was entirely covered with paper leaves and flowers that cascaded all around flower-inspired dresses, celebrating Dior’s great affinity for flowers.
In the second half of the exhibit, there were soaring displays of gowns stacked ever higher all the way to the vaulted ceiling. This was the best fashion exhibit I have seen since the 2010 Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Petit Palais. I do hope you’ll be able to visit it for yourself.
Have you ever heard of Dalida? She was a larger-than-life beauty queen, turned singer, originally from Egypt. I use “Laissez-moi danser” and “Je suis malade” in class and my students are usually rather overwhelmed by all that she was. Recently, her brother donated many of her old stage costumes to the Palais Galliera and the exhibit is on now through August 13, 2017. Whether in ready-to-wear or haute couture, Dalida dazzled her way through the New Look in the 50s to disco in the 80s. In addition to the extravagant gowns she wore to perform, you can also see her glamorous day wear. The French equivalent of “larger-than-life” is hors du commun, (or due com-mun), and that phrase fits Dalida as perfectly as one of her slinky dresses.
Very Best of Dalida
There’s a lot of overlap in the exhibits on in Paris this summer. I recently wrote about the photo exhibit about gardens at the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Grand Palais, just off the Champs Élysées, has an exhibit simply entitled Jardins (shjar-dahn) featuring art works inspired by gardens. Six centuries of gardens, spanning the Renaissance to modern times, including works by Fragonard, Monet, Cézanne, Klimt, Picasso, and Matisse. Just as a real garden appeals to all senses, this exhibit will have many different types of works, in addition to paintings, including sculptures, photography, and displays of sounds and scents. This exhibit is on now and will continue until July 24, 2017.
Private Gardens of Paris
When I think of France, I often think, not of monuments, but of gardens. After all, I live about thirty seconds from the Jardin du Luxembourg in the summer. Some days are so busy that’s as far as I get to go. Each year, there is an exhibit of world-class photos on the fence that surrounds the garden. On now, through July 24, 2017, you can admire the free, open-air exhibit entitled “Jardins extraordinaires” (shjar-dahn ex-tra-or-deen-air) that showcases gardens that have received the designation of being a “Remarkable Garden” by the Ministry of Culture and Communication. Some are contemporary photographs by Jean-Baptiste Leroux while others are historical pictures just of the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’ll make a beautiful walk in the park even lovelier.
Gardens in France
What would Paris be without an exhibit dedicated to fashion? This one is quite unusual; the fashion museum, the Palais Galliera, is presenting Balenciaga: L’Oeuvre au noir at the Musée Bourdelle. The Bourdelle is the former studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and I visited it one other time for an exhibit of the fashions of Mme Grés. The juxtaposition of the gowns and sculptures was extremely dramatic. I’m looking forward to seeing the fashions of Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in this setting — black clothing highlighted against the white plaster sculptures.
Balenciaga was inspired by the black robes of religious orders. In speaking of Balenciaga, Christian Dior said, “Le vêtement était sa religion” (luh vet-mehn et-ay sah ray-li-jhe-ohn), which means “Clothing was his religion.” I’ve seen a Balenciaga exhibit before and I can only imagine how beautiful the clothes will look in this spare and beautiful setting with its beautiful light, almost like a cathedral. The exhibit is on until July 16, 2017.
Balenciaga’s Craft: Outside In
A visit to the musée Jacquemart-André is always on my must-do list when I visit Paris. This year, my visit must be prior to July 10 to catch De Zurbarán à Rothko, an exhibit culled from the personal and corporate collection of Alicia Koplowitz.
Koplowitz is the head of Spanish investment firm Grupo Omega Capital. She bought what she liked, starting with a piece of Sèvres porcelain, purchased at an auction in Paris many years ago. Her biography on the website refers to how the art acquisitions “ont jalonné” the great stages of her personal and professional life. Jalonner means “to punctuate” or “to define.” Get a promotion, buy a masterpiece. Not a bad way to celebrate.
The collection crosses centuries, continents and genres — much the way the Jacquemart-André permanent collection does. The 52 works prominently feature the portraits of women that Koplowitz prefers. The only questions that I need to resolve are, will I have brunch or lunch at the beautiful café and will I dine before or after I see the exhibit?
The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits
A few days ago, I wrote about an exhibit dedicated to Pissarro at the musée Marmottan. There’s another show dedicated to him at the tiny musée du Luxembourg (also known as the musée du Sénat). Coincidentally perhaps, it closes the same day. This museum is just a brief stroll from where I work, so I’m sure I’ll be able to sqeeze in a visit.
Pissarro started out as an Impressionist, then switched to neo-Impressionism, also known as pointillism, and then back to Impressionism. This exhibit focuses on the years 1886 to 1994, the pointillism years. (Follow this link to learn more about the technique.) Pissarro moved into the little village of Eragny, north-west of Paris in 1884. He was able to purchase a house thanks to a loan from Claude Monet. The exhibit website poses the question Pointilleux Pissarro? Pointilleux means “meticulous, exact, punctilious” and Pissarro’s works are all of that in the best sense of the word.
Why would Pissarro be an ardent neo-Impressionist and then switch back? Apparently, the answer lies in money. Pissarro had a family to support and painting in the pointillist manner was so much more time consuming that his revenue fell to the point that he needed to make a change. In addition, the art buying public was not too sure about this new technique. I wish I could go back in time and scoop up a few dozen canvases from a time when this pointilleux technique was not appreciated.