After acclaimed stops in Shanghai, London and Paris, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams opened at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City this September. For those of us who have been yearning for a visit to Paris, Dior provides a wonderful reminder of the treasures we love about our favourite city.
The exhibition includes over 200 Dior gowns plus photographs, videos, perfume bottles and accessories. Every era of Dior designs is represented, including the “New Look,” which debuted in 1947. Dresses by Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianfranco Ferré, and John Galliano, among others, are admirably represented.
The Brooklyn Museum may seem a strange location for such a posh exhibit but it turns out to be entirely appropriate. The museum is a treasure in and of itself. Designed in the Beaux Arts style by the noted architects McKim, Mead and White in 189, its galleries are spacious, beautifully lit and “devoid of the elaborate decorations which so often clutter up … public buildings. [They are] ideal backgrounds for the display of works of art.” (The WPA Guide to New York City, p. 489 , 1939)
The third floor of the museum is devoted to Dior. It has vast amounts of space for the artfully grouped dresses; its walls and passageways are dramatically lit and its ceilings seem to reach to the sky. The exhibit winds through gallery after gallery culminating in the museum’s Beaux Arts court, which has been transformed into an enchanted garden. “This magnificent, timeless space measures 10,000 square feet and two stories high, rising 60 feet above the floor to culminate in a dramatic skylight. It boasts historic features such as original archways, a large brass chandelier, and an updated glass-tile floor originally completed in 1927,” to quote the Brooklyn Museum website. The court provides a perfect backdrop, not only for the ball gowns, but also for the spectacular light show that accompanies the exhibit.
Since it opened in September, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams has been sold out continually, but the space never feels crowded. Contrasted with the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Louvre in 2019, where one could hardly breathe in the crush, let alone see much of the artwork, the experience here was refreshingly pleasant. There is plenty of room to wander, contemplate and enjoy. This makes a big difference, not only in the aesthetic experience, but also in the mood of the (very diverse) crowd. I watched as visitors exclaimed over the dresses and the setting and started up friendly conversations with others who happened to be nearby. No one appeared impatient or hurried. We all had a really good time.
Dior is on view in Brooklyn through February 20, 2022. I encourage anyone who can to make the trip to visit. The clothes are gorgeous and the museum does them full justice. It’s not Paris, but it’s a welcome substitute!
200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Tel: +1 718-638-5000
Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Regular ticketed exhibition price is $25
By Fern Nesson
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