PARIS — Christian Dior has been inspired plenty by China. Now some of that nation’s most prominent artists are drawing inspiration from the French fashion house for an ambitious and futuristic exhibition next month at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing.
This story first appeared in the October 13, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The show will feature more than 20 specially commissioned works — many of them large scale — alongside some of the Dior originals that inspired them, from archival dresses by the founding couturier and John Galliano to fine jewelry by Victoire de Castellane, men’s wear by Kris Van Assche, perfumes and accessories.
Works include a 23-foot-high Lady Dior bag made of a lattice of fluorescent tubes by Li Song Song, a giant portrait of Galliano by Zhang Dali composed of Dali’s pseudonym AK-47 and a re-creation of the couture atelier in white porcelain by Liu Jianhua. A Who’s Who of China’s red-hot art scene will be represented, including Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Du.
Spread across 32,000 feet, “Christian Dior and Chinese Artists” will include video works, photography, paintings, sculptures and a gardenlike installation, interspersed with dresses, sketches and photos from the Dior archive, with an accent on dresses by Christian Dior himself and Galliano, couturier since 1997.
For example, Galliano took a research trip to China for his summer 2003 couture show, during which martial artists and plate spinners paraded alongside silhouettes as grand and rich as the country, including exaggerated frock coats and densely flounced gowns.
“I love travel, I love to mix cultures and influences. I find that such a potent source of inspiration and I find the exotic grace and appeal of Asia endless,” Galliano said. “I was thrilled that we were able to not only take influence, but inspire influences, and I love the collaborations and synergy between the two.”
The exhibition, which will run for two months starting Nov. 15, will be feted with a dinner hosted by luxury titan Bernard Arnault, Dior president Sidney Toledano, Dior Parfums chief executive officer Claude Martinez and Galliano.
China represents an important expansion market for Dior. The brand opened its first boutique in the country in Shanghai in 1994, followed by Beijing in 1997. Today, there are also Dior boutiques in Dalian, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Tianjin and Shenyang.
The Ullens Center opened a year ago, founded by collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens, a Dior couture client and frequent front-row guest at its Paris shows.