Posts Tagged 'Dior'

The Barrel Vault’s New Look

Haute couture heaven has arrived at the DMA, and it’s here for fashionistas to feast their eyes on throughout the summer. From the moment you enter Dior: From Paris to the World, there is no shortage of “wow” moments around every corner—luxurious vintage looks dating back to the 1940s, impeccably white toiles hanging high under a mirrored ceiling, a cathedral-like wall displaying dresses worn by iconic celebrities—all of which are made even more magnificent by the space in which they are presented.

If you’ve visited the Museum some months ago, you may remember the last presentation that was held in the Barrel Vault, An Enduring Legacy. From then to now, the space has completely transformed. See for yourself:

Installation photo of An Enduring Legacy: The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Collection of Impressionist and Modern Art
Installation photo of Dior: From Paris to the World, courtesy of James Florio

To gain some behind-the-scenes insights about the making of this exhibition, I asked Skye Malish-Olson, Exhibition Designer, and Jaclyn Le, Senior Graphic Designer, some questions about what it was like working on this show.

How does Dior compare to other DMA exhibitions you’ve worked on?
Skye: This was different from other exhibitions, where the whole team is DMA staff. In my role as designer, typically I work directly with representatives of each DMA department and with the curator to understand their vision in order to translate it to a physical exhibition presentation. In this case, designers from OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture) created the experience of the space in collaboration with Dior. OMA also designed the exhibition for the Denver Art Museum (DAM), the show’s previous venue, but they designed a very different experience for each institution because the architecture of the two museums is so different. One thing that was important was that visitors would move from one gallery to the next in a prescribed path, not the open-ended grid of galleries that our Barrel Vault and Quads typically provide. To create this pathway, while using the full height of the existing architecture, OMA totally changed the space with a full architectural intervention, re-imagining the physical possibilities of this gallery.

Jaclyn: I had to make sure that all environmental graphics and wayfinding were consistent throughout all locations of the exhibition. Dior is also different from other exhibitions I’ve worked on because I typically create the exhibition identity and environmental graphics for our exhibitions in collaboration with the curator and our internal team. In this case, I worked with Dior’s identity, OMA’s concept direction, and design assets from DAM, and many more stakeholders were involved in the approval of all the exhibition and interpretive graphics.

Were there any aspects of this exhibition that you worked on most?
Skye: I worked between OMA’s concept, our internal team, and external fabricators and contractors to help make this conceptual vision a physical reality. With our DMA team leading the planning process, it was a big challenge to pull this off with so many stakeholders in multiple locations. It was a truly ambitious design that required a lot of troubleshooting and multiple rounds of specifying materials.

Jaclyn: Following OMA’s concepts and some of the exhibition graphics from DAM, and working with our internal team, I was involved in all of the components of the exhibition environmental graphics and interpretation graphics. Everything from handling the Concourse mural of Christian Dior’s sketches, manipulating the façade design of Dior’s Atelier Design House to fit the arched entrance to our exhibition, and designing the headers for each gallery, the exhibition map, wayfinding, and labels and identification numbers. It took a lot of coordination between the various teams and vendors, and taking mock-ups of all the designs into the galleries to get a feel for how all the graphics would play in the space.

What was the biggest challenge in the exhibition graphic design or in transforming this space?
Skye: With all of the complex and impressive design elements, the biggest challenge actually turned out to be the lighting. Each piece needs to be properly lit from multiple angles, something that needed to be built in to the infrastructure, especially in places with high ceilings or in recessed areas.

Jaclyn: The biggest challenge was probably the Concourse mural of Christian Dior’s historic sketches. It was challenging because I was working with scans of his beautiful drawings, and I wanted to keep their organic quality when reproducing them as larger-than-life graphics. Our Concourse walls are long and angled, and I had to make sure that the layout of dresses fit nicely down the length of the Concourse.

Which is your favorite room or section of the show?
Jaclyn: I really love the Creative Director galleries. Each creative director had such a distinct vision and I enjoy seeing their inspirations, mood boards, sketches, and completed works all together and showcased in such a beautiful way.

Skye: My favorite space is the Office of Dreams. I love the simple, clean construction of the space, which mirrors the clean construction of the toiles. Seeing the handwork that designed these incredible garments in three dimensions creates such a direct connection to the artful process of their creation.

Images courtesy of James Florio

Any other hidden gems or interesting tidbits about this space?
Skye: The top 40 feet of mirror at the back of the Barrel Vault is actually a stretched mirror fabric that is incredibly lightweight.

Describe this space in three words.
Jaclyn: Innovative, magnificent, magical.
Skye: Transformed, complex, impressive.

Visitors can be dazzled by Dior: From Paris to the World at the DMA now through September 1. Timed tickets are required for all visitors and must be purchased or reserved in advance. Check out our FAQ page for more information, and we hope you enjoy the show!

Hayley Caldwell is the Copy and Content Marketing Writer at the DMA.

“The Master of the Moment” Takes Texas: Dior and Dallas

During the first ten years of the House of Dior’s existence, Dallas played a pivotal role in the label’s expansion across the Atlantic. Dallas was the first city that Christian Dior visited in the US, when he traveled in 1947 to receive the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion (called the “Oscars of the fashion industry”).[1] Not only was Dior impressed by the city and by Neiman Marcus itself, which became from that point forward a major retailer of Dior, but he also became close friends with Stanley Marcus, the store’s then-owner. Their relationship is recorded in photographs taken by Marcus as well as in telegrams and letters now kept in the Stanley Marcus Papers at SMU. Collectively, they demonstrate the importance of Dallas to this iconic label and its founder.

Christian Dior accepting the Neiman Marcus Award from Stanley Marcus, 1947, gelatin silver print, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Dior’s 1947 visit to Dallas, when he was recognized with the Neiman Marcus Award as “master of the moment in the ranks of French couture,” introduced him to the world of American fashion.[2] Honored alongside Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo, British fashion designer Norman Hartnell, Hollywood costume designer Irene, and actress Dolores del Rio, Dior presented his revolutionary “New Look” to the American South with three outfits specially commissioned for the exposition.[3] The trip inspired him to think of adapting his work to the less formal dressing style of American consumers.[4] A year after his Dallas trip, Dior created his Christian Dior-New York label of ready-to-wear outfits for the American lifestyle. Sold primarily through the house’s boutique in New York, the label was also sold in select stores throughout the US, including at Neiman Marcus.[5] Dior likely exhibited works from this new label when he returned a second time to Dallas in 1950 to show outfits and examples from his new line of men’s ties.[6] Dallas was the site of a major exhibition of Dior’s fashion again in 1954 when it was the only US stop in a Pan-American tour of the recent Paris line.[7]

Christian Dior handing a flower to Billie Marcus, La Colle Noire, photo by Stanley Marcus, 1954, gelatin silver print, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

During this time, Stanley Marcus and Dior continued to develop their friendship. Numerous photos in the collection show that Marcus visited Dior in France at both his Paris apartment and his country home in Grasse. Letters and telegrams back and forth show the two discussing business as well as personal events in their lives. The relationship between Dior and Stanley Marcus resulted in a large representation of Dior’s products at Neiman Marcus’s 1957 French Fortnight, a two-week-long event that honored the store’s fiftieth anniversary. The accompanying booklet highlighted the range of goods from France’s most well known brands available for purchase, as well as local events celebrating French culture. Dior was represented in a stall that reproduced the original boutique on the Avenue Montaigne, and the company launched its perfume Diorissimo there.[8] Dior was unfortunately unable to attend, and, in fact, he would die before the Fortnight ended. Nevertheless, Dior’s close relationship with Dallas was highlighted by the fact that a poster advertising the Fortnight hung for a time in Dior’s Paris boutique.[9] The next year, Yves Saint Laurent’s first US visit was also to Dallas to receive the Neiman Marcus Award, citing the trip his predecessor took 11 years before.[10] Dallas was a clear focal point of activity for Christian Dior and a city of enormous symbolic importance, and it is therefore appropriate that the man and his label are currently being celebrated at the DMA.

Stanley Marcus and Yves Saint Laurent, photo by Georgette de Bruchard, 1958, gelatin silver print, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

My thanks to Hillary Bober, archivist at the DMA, Natalie “Schatzie” Lee, research volunteer, and the librarians at SMU for their assistance in this research.

Get a closer look at more archival materials that illustrate Dior’s history with Dallas in Dior: From Paris to the World, on view through September 1. Timed tickets are required for all visitors of the exhibition, which can be purchased in advance here.

Nicholas de Godoy Lopes is the McDermott Intern for Decorative Arts and Design at the DMA.


[1] Marihelen McDuff, Neiman-Marcus Award press release (Dallas: Neiman-Marcus, 1947), 1.
[2] Tenth Annual Fashion Exposition Show invitation (Dallas, Texas: Neiman-Marcus, 1947), 2.
[3] McDuff, Neiman-Marcus Award press release, 3.
[4] Alexandra Palmer, “Global Expansions and Licenses,” in Dior: A New Look, A New Enterprise, 1947-1957 (London: V&A Publishing, 2009), 78.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Katherine Dillard, “Christian Dior Says Fashion Will Stress Feminine Curves,” The Dallas Morning News, October 17, 1950.
[7] Palmer, “Global Expansions and Licenses,” 107; “Dior’s Paris Collection to Make Only U.S. Appearance in Dallas,” The Dallas Morning News, November 7, 1954.
[8] Anne Wright to Stanley Marcus, May 1, 1957; Neiman-Marcus, Neiman-Marcus Brings France to Texas: Everything from A to Z (Dallas: Neiman-Marcus, 1957), unpaginated.
[9] Stanley Marcus to Christian Dior, October 2, 1957.
[10] “For N-M Award: Shy Young Designing Genius Plans First Trip to America,” The Dallas Morning News, August 2, 1958.

 

Fashion in Vogue

Even though Irving Penn’s work in the exhibition at the DMA encompasses several subject areas (e.g., still life, portraiture, travel, and commercial photography), he is most widely known for his work in the fashion industry. His fame in this arena is well deserved, both for how he revolutionized the practice of the fashion shoot itself and for the simplified, bold, and elegant sophistication of the images he captured.

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Prior to Penn’s arrival at Vogue magazine in the 1940s, fashion shoots were organized around a contextual approach—meaning he had to design a “set” that provided a context or narrative for the clothes the model would be wearing. It was theatrical as well as being a lot of work. It didn’t take long before Penn abandoned that practice and adopted instead a stripped-down approach that peeled away all extraneous and distracting details. By using plain backgrounds, all the emphasis shifted to the models and the haute couture designs they wore. The designers loved it!

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When you look at Penn’s fashion photography, two strong characteristics dominate: an emphasis on form, or the silhouette, that is quite sculptural in its effect; and, the powerful sense of feminine independence of the modern woman. The latter was no accident. In Penn’s eyes, models weren’t just clothes hangers but rather intelligent and perceptive individuals for whom he had a great deal of respect. Consequently, these images come off as portraits, which is what Penn considered them to be, thus explaining why he always included their names in the titles.
The model for whom he likely had the greatest respect was the Swedish-born Lisa Fonssagrives, who is today considered to be the world’s first supermodel. The rapport and connection between them is palpable whenever she is looking into the lens of the camera. She was not just his muse; she also became his wife in 1950, just before they left New York to shoot the Paris collections.

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When Penn arrived in Paris in 1950, he set up on the top floor of a photography school. It was a daylight studio—meaning he used only the natural light that poured through the bank of north-facing windows. An abandoned theater curtain provided the softly mottled background for the shots. The studio and the stairwell up to it became a buzzing hive of activity as couriers arrived and departed. By bicycle, they ferried elaborate ensembles from the fashion houses of Dior, Balenciaga, Rochas, and Molyneux. Once the shoot was complete, they furiously pedaled their way back across town with their precious cargo.

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The photographs from that iconic Paris shoot are stunning for their simplicity and originality. Rochas’ curve-hugging mermaid dress and Dior’s wonderful nipped-waist black suit were all about the silhouette. Penn’s idea to concentrate on details of other designs was equally brilliant. His close-up shots of the gorgeous gathered sleeve of Balenciaga’s coat, or the distinctive pocket on a coat by Molyneux, drew attention to the superior design as well as the craftsmanship of the individuals who made them.

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Penn’s contribution to fashion photography set a standard that shaped not only the practice but also the industry itself. Many would adopt a simplified approach to the fashion shoot. Even today, other photographers, aspiring or established, stand in the long shadow of Penn’s legacy, borrowing his ideas or even re-creating some of his most innovative shots, like a nod of admiration to the creative genius of one of the 20th century’s greatest masters.

Celebrate Penn’s birthday tomorrow evening with the launch of our summer Thursdays and enjoy buy-one-get-one-free tickets to Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty. Strike a pose from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and take home your favorite Penn-inspired memories with free prints made onsite from your Instagram account.

Sue Canterbury is The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the DMA.


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