The Dior Grand Bal
Christian Dior Museum, Granville, France
Through September 26, 2010
This exhibition places the universe and creations of Christian Dior—haute couture, accessories and fragrances from the House of Dior, plus paintings, photographs, archive films and literary works—in a unique context: the history of balls, from the 18th century to the present.
The exhibition is a tribute to Christian Dior himself, showcasing his talent and refinement, and his love of sumptuous costumes, expressed in creations for the grand balls of the post-war period. The couturier was part of myriad memorable events, including the 1949 Kings and Queens Ball, which he attended disguised as the “King of the Animals”, the Bal des Artistes (Artists’ Ball) in 1956, for which he dressed as a dandy, or the Masks and Dominos Ball hosted by Charles de Beistegui at the Palazzo Labia in Venice in 1951. Several of the gowns and parade costumes created by Christian Dior for this mythic ball - often described as “the party of the century”- will be loaned by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée Galliera.
The first part of the exhibition will evoke the sources of inspiration that nourished the imagination of Christian Dior himself: his youth, marked by balls at the Granville Casino, followed by his discovery in Paris of the Opera ballets and the Russian ballets. Also featured are his friendships with musician Henri Sauguet and the decorator Christian Bérard and his deep passion for artistic creation and the artists of his time. One of the major pieces in the exhibition is Kees Van Dongen’s Self-Portrait as Neptune (1922), which served as the inspiration for Christian Dior’s very first ball costume. This exceptional work has been loaned for the exhibition by the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Pompidou Center).
The second part of the exhibition covers the period from the 1980s to the present, evoking the renaissance of grand balls such as the “Debutante Ball”, and showcases the “new balls” given by the House of Dior in recent decades. Included are the “Bal des Artistes”, for which John Galliano drew inspiration from the grand masters—– Goya, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer and others—to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Maison Dior at the Château de Versailles in 2007, as well as the “Ball in Honor of the Marquise Cassati”, which inspired the 1998 Spring-Summer Haute Couture collection. The exhibition also presents the parties given by Parfums Christian Dior in the grandest tradition of elegant balls. The “Poison” (1985) and “Dune” (1991) balls given at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, as well as the “Midnight Poison” evening held at the Paris Opera in 2007—immortalized in the advertising spot by director Wong Kar-wai—are all displayed in the exhibition.
The exhibition is staged by Frédéric Beauclair in the heart of the Villa “Les Rhumbs”, recreating the magical and sumptuous spirit of the grand balls. In addition to stunning lighting, the musical ambiance plus audio and video documents enable visitors—at least for a delightful interlude—to become ephemeral guests at the “Dior Grand Ball”.