The DMA’s Dior exhibition highlights the intersection of art and fashion

TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
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During the sneak peek advance opening of a new exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, the fire alarm briefly resounded and, for a moment, we all froze, wondering if we needed to file out. The buzzer quickly went off, an apparent drill or glitch, but in fact, the DMA was smokin’ that day. Because what is going on in the Barrel Vault Galleries through Sept. 1, can only be described as en fuego.

Dior: From Paris to the World, has quickly become the hot new ticket at the museum, a retrospective of more than 70 years of House of Dior, not just as a clothing line but as an influential trendsetter in textile arts.

Decorative arts curator Sarah Schleuning added art from the DMA’s permanent collection to highlight the classic — and forward-looking — cuts of Dior gowns in a vignette we nicknamed ‘Versailles Quinceanera,’ top opposite; below, an altar of cultural standouts distinguishes The Cathedral. Above: Florence Muller, the textile art and fashion curator of the Denver Art Museum who was responsible for organizing the exhibition, stands before more of a display of muslin prototypes from which all designs arise.

Following its world premiere at Denver Art Museum, the DMA’s version has maintained much of the original while also adding to it for Dallas audiences. The essentials are still there: Each of the creative directors — starting with the famed New Look from Dior himself in 1947, and continuing through Yves St. Laurent,

Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and the current head of design (and only woman) Maria Grazia Chiuri — has a mini-collection in its own vignette; then the sweep of cultural influences (gowns plainly inspired by Spanish, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, British and Native American concepts) are showcased in a room that can only be called The Cathedral: An altar upon which the gay community is sure to worship.

But DMA senior decorative arts curator Sarah Schleuning has supplemented the prior exhibit with more than 30 new dresses, and added paintings from the DMA’s own permanent collection to illuminate how artistic enterprises from across centuries and media can inform and surprise us. In total, more than 200 total looks grace the galleries, including one tableau of gorgeous pastels and luxe florals that can only be described as “Versailles Quinceanera,” and a display in rainbow colors showcasing miniatures of haute couture.

Organizers have praised Dior as an artist on the level of Picasso, and champion this exhibit as representative of the intersection of fashion and contemporary art.

This is definitely not the first fashion-based exhibit in the DMA’s recent history. Avant garde fashion artist Iris van Herpen enjoyed a retrospective in 2017, and Jean-Paul Gaultier dominated the galleries in the winter of 2011. But museum director Agustin Arteaga seems especially excited about this one.

“I’m over the moon,” Arteaga says. “It is the most beautiful exhibit in DMA history.”

The exhibition has already proven to be wildly popular — advanced reservations are required with specific windows of time, and it will take a good half hour minimum to fully explore the show and bask in its grandeur. Don’t wait too long to see it, though — like fashion itself, it will be gone before you realize it.

 

 

 

 

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Establishment to edgy — the tableaux dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent

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who ran that house from 1958–60, contrasts to the drama of John Galliano

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A gown from Galliano’s first spring/summer collection for Dior.