Christian Dior was attracted since his youth to art and the avant-grade movements. So it wasn’t so surprising that, when he was supposed to be studying political science in Paris, he spent most of his evenings at the cabaret Le Boeuf sur le Toit and kept company with Henri Sauget, Christian Bérard, Maurice Sachs, Jean Cocteau, Jean Ozenne, and so on. He was only twenty-three when, in 1928, he decided to team up with his friend Jacques Bonjean, and then Pierre Colle, to become a gallerist. He exhibited the first works by Alexander Calder and Salvador Dali, previously unknown young talents who would go on to become among the biggest names of the 20th century. He also showed the work of already famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Paul Klee.
Almost twenty years later, when he opened his own couture house, he operated as a veritable body sculptor when it came to constructing his clothes, expressing his love for art with each new season. Over an endless slew of creations he sprinkled flowers in the manner of Claude Monet; a dress with Spanish touches could have stepped out of a Goya painting; others evoke the colors and shapes in works by Paul Cézanne or Gustav Klimt, or bear names with a musical inspiration such as Concerto, Menuet or Bach. The different creative directors to have succeeded the founding couturier have perpetuated this passion: Marc Bohan reinterpreted Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings and collaborated with his friend Niki de Saint Phalle, while Raf Simons transposed the paintings of Sterling Ruby onto his haute couture dresses. This osmosis between fashion and art continues to inspire the House creations being designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri today. In her autumn-winter 2017-18 ready-to-wear collection, for example, the Creative Director explored blue, a color for which Monsieur Dior had a great fondness, the color of 20th-century painting, of Picasso’s blue period, not to mention the blues of Nina Simone. Her spring-summer 2018 collection, presented in September, was imbued with the universe of Niki de Saint Phalle, from the Nanas, to brightly-colored hearts, dragons and the tree of love. It offered a way for Maria Grazia Chiuri to keep alive the link connecting Dior and artists, along with the costumes she has designed for the dance piece Falls the Shadow, an extract of which will be performed tomorrow evening in the Guggenheim Museum’s famous rotunda.