With a cascade of 3,000 ceramic Dior perfume bottles suspended from the ceiling forming a dramatic installation by artist Liu Jianhua, it's clear Dior isn't content with merely playing the 'heritage' card in China.
Last night the Esprit Dior exhibition opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai's historic People's Park. Merely delving into the archives would have patronised China's new savvy consumers, so instead Dior presented nine themes, grouping collections together from 1947 to the present day, and introduced eight of China's emerging artists to display an homage to the maestro of Avenue Montaigne.
The artists involved feel a personal connection with what Dior represents. Liu Jianhua said 'I was very impressed with the history, and story and entrepreneurship of Christian Dior.' Liu Tianmiao paid tribute to the atelier's technicians and 'grafted tools and skeletons to create new values' while bad boy Zhang Huan's portrait used incense ash from Buddhist temples 'to symbolise Dior's collective soul'.
Christian Dior's first art gallery showed Dali, Giacometti, Miró and Klee, and - like Raf Simons - he had a background in architecture, which gave him a broadness of vision, to which this show is a testament. It is also intriguing to distinguish the details of each individual designer's interpretation of Dior's sculpted silhouettes, season by season, designer by designer. Such is the iconography of Dior. The exhibition presents a riveting portrayal of one man's unique vision, seen through many talented and experimental eyes.
Judging by the extensive client list at the Shanghai opening, Dior has the definitive mainland A-lister address book and the incorporation of Chinese artists added edge to the event. Photographer Patrick Demarchelier enthused 'I love the mixture of clothes, pictures and art. As a young photographer, Dior was actually one of my first clients.'
With more than a hundred Dior dresses on display, contrasting the 'New Look' of 1947 to the present day red carpet designs for brand ambassador starlets, no detail has been spared. Milliner Stephen Jones was thrilled to spend four days personally positioning each hat on the mannequins. 'We have all the wooden blocks, and some from 1947 where it all started. It's a dream come true. To be in Dior, to be in that house and to work with the amazing technicians in the atelier.'
Adds curator Florence Muller: 'This exhibition is a mix of art and fashion, but also of past and present, a theme many of the Chinese artists can relate to.'