Man Ray, view of the exhibition “Exposition surréaliste. Sculptures, objets, peintures, dessins”, Galerie Pierre Colle, June 1933 / Salvador Dali, Buste rétrospectif d’une femme et La Chaise atmosphérique, 1933
© MAN RAY TRUST / Adagp, Paris, 2017 / © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dali / Adagp, Paris, 2017

When the House of Dior was inaugurated in 1947, a crowd of artists and collectors came to admire the creations of the man they knew from his years running art galleries. Christian Dior paid tribute to the established and up-and-coming artists whose work he used to exhibit in his galleries by designing dresses inspired by Picasso, Braque, and Bérard. This close relationship to the art world has always marked the history of the House of Dior.

It forms part of Monsieur Dior’s legacy to his successors, as illustrated by Marc Bohan’s new take on Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings for his 1984 collection, and Gianfranco Ferré’s 1995 couture interpretation of Cézanne’s Harlequin character.

John Galliano for Christian Dior, Spring-Summer 1999 Haute Couture collection
Long mermaid-line crêpe sheath dress with draped shoulder straps and black glove motif at the hips, Paris, Dior Héritage
© MAD, Paris / Nicholas Alan Cope

John Galliano’s time at Dior abounded in artistic references, including the Shéhérazade outfit in 1998, a reminder of the orientalism favored by Léon Bakst and the Ballets Russes. The British designer liked to explore Surrealism and the ties of friendship that bound Dior to Dalí and Jean Cocteau. His collections celebrated Picasso’s work, with a Harlequin costume that conjured up the Spanish artist’s Blue and Rose periods, and paid homage to Christian Bérard and his bold lines surrounded by black detailing.

Raf Simons also explored contemporary art through his collaboration with Californian artist Sterling Ruby. Together they revisited the Spray Paintings series with a collection of dresses that transpose the layer of paint into shadow print satin. The Belgian designer continued his exploration with two pastel-hued dresses echoing the work of American artist Agnes Martin.