From a young age, Christian Dior was drawn to Japan. “Large panels painted in imitation of Japanese prints adorned the whole staircase. These Utamaro and Hokusai interpretations constituted my Sistine Chapel. I can remember gazing at them for hours ...” he said while describing the ground floor of the family villa Les Rhumbs in Granville in his memoirs.
With such a rich history linking the maison to the country — Dior even created the spring/summer 1953 haute couture outfit called Jardin Japonais and was the first Western couturier to propose his collections to the island — it feels only right that Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition should make its way to Tokyo.
After its resounding success at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, this exhibition has now been adapted for the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT), curated by Florence Müller.
“Christian Dior admired the Japanese for their capacity to ‘combine modernism and tradition’. A mutual and profound tale of admiration went on to link Japan — the land of tradition and innovation — with the House, whose retro style revolutionised post-war fashion. With the first agreements signed in 1953 between Dior and Japanese textile companies of prestige, it was also the beginning of a fruitful cultural and artistic dialogue that lives on today with Maria Grazia Chiuri and this exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo,” says Müller.
Running until May 28, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams features a scenographic narrative brought to life by architect Shohei Shigematsu from the OMA agency in New York. Each space takes on a different arc of the story. For instance, the first room sports black and white contrasts including archived documents that relate Christian Dior’s bond with Japan, as well as letters, sketches and pieces from shows that took place on the island.
“We’re honoured to design a new spatial narrative within the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo that draws from Dior’s storied relationship with Japan as well as the country’s current cultural contexts to showcase Dior’s creative continuity in a new light,” says Shigematsu. “Our collaboration with Dior across multiple cities and venues has been an exciting opportunity to continuously rethink and recontextualise the retrospective in response to its specific, local setting, much like Christian Dior’s global expedition and influence.”
Alongside the exhibition, a book has been published to celebrate the heritage and modernity of the maison from 1947 to the present day. It features photographs by the famed Yuriko Takagi and examines the ties between Dior and Japan. The book also has texts signed by Kazuko Koike, Akiko Fukai, Kaya Tsujita, Florence Müller, Vincent Leret and Olivier Flaviano.
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams runs until May 28.
This article first appeared on Jan 9, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.