Designed by OMA / Shohei Shigematsu, Dior:From Paris to the World at the Denver Art Museum, is an exhibition exploring the history and founding principles of the Dior fashion house while highlighting the diverse ethos of the brand’s seven creative directors. Featuring over 200 couture garments, artworks and artifacts, accessories, jewelry, photographs, sketches, videos and other archival material, the exhibition surveys more than 70 years of the House of Dior’s legacy and global influence in themes around inspirations that have been predominant in the history of the house and its creative directors.
In contrast to the 70th anniversary exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, Dior’s first retrospective in the United States responds to a drastic change in the environment and the need to craft a different narrative for the American audience. OMA’s exhibition aims to create a spatial journey through the brand’s long-history of consistent diversity and creativity with forms and materiality that enhance the qualities of objects on display.
OMA’s design is conceived through specificity to the contemporary context of the Hamilton Building and its architecture. Materiality of display armature takes cues from the titanium cladding of the building while contrasting from its stark, industrial quality by shaping the material into organic forms much like Dior’s classic silhouettes and textures. Spatial organization is informed by the unique geometries of the Anschutz Gallery and Martin and McCormick Gallery.
The exhibition conveys curatorial themes as a series of enfilade rooms that expand and contract to fit within the irregular gallery plan while optimizing spaces for display. In Anschutz Gallery, as a nod to Christian Dior’s obsession for his Granville garden, an organic pathway carves through the organically shaped cell-like rooms. The path defines a double-sided presentation within, with clear sightlines to adjacent spaces. Each room is defined by aluminum panels of varying curvatures, textures and profiles that echo various signature shapes of Dior garments—from the flower- silhouette of the New Look to the cascading petals of couture gowns. The rawness of the aluminum creates a dramatic juxtaposition against its soft curves and provides not a direct mirror, but a subtle reflection of overall shapes and colors in the garments.
The path leads into Martin and McCormick Gallery, which is given over to a single theme, “From Paris to the World”, that highlights how designs from the house have been inspired by different cultures. Here, the aluminum material shifts from a vertical backdrop to a horizontal one. Petal- shaped platforms crawl up the inclined walls of the gallery to create an immersive topography. The pathway continues through a dramatic valley, where all garments can be viewed from a single vantage point.
The exhibition adds to OMA New York and Shohei Shigematsu’s engagement with fashion exhibitions—from the traveling skirt exhibition, Prada Waist Down, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2016 Costume Institute exhibition, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.
“Objects shown in fashion exhibitions inherently possess a closer degree of connection to its visitors because of clothing’s commercial nature, which allows people to contemplate couture within their own imaginations on a more personal level,” explains Shohei Shigematsu. “This relationship gives architects an opportunity to be more experimental in exhibition design, to explore and establish new and immersive ways for people to engage with objects on display.”
“Our aim for Dior’s first retrospective in the United States was to communicate the brand’s narrative in an accessible and compelling way, by comprehensively tracing its inspirations and ideas and enhancing them through a spatial journey and contrasting materiality.”