The exhibition, Dior: From Paris to the World, traces the evolution of the French fashion house from its founding in the 1940s to the present day. Nearly 200 haute couture dresses are on view, along with a range of accessories, sketches, photographs, runway videos and other material.
Divided into multiple themes, the retrospective features garments created under the leadership of seven creative directors. Several pieces in the show have been worn by celebrities, from Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe to Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
"The exhibition takes audiences through more than seven decades of innovation, bringing together the most exciting, dynamic and pivotal pieces," said Sarah Schleuning, senior curator of decorative arts and design at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA).
The show is being staged within several galleries at the DMA, which is housed in a 1984 building by the late American architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, an AIA Gold Medal laureate. The Dior show occupies the museum's noted Barrel Vault space, along with several adjoining galleries.
Designed by OMA's New York office, led by Shohei Shigematsu, the exhibition is carefully tailored for its setting. Visitors first encounter a mirrored mockup of the facade of Dior's Paris atelier. From there, they are channelled toward the lofty Barrel Vault, which rises to a height of 44 feet (13 metres) and measures 114 in length (35 metres).
The long, arched volume aligns with Flora Street, a primary artery in the Dallas Arts District. OMA's intent for this part of the exhibition was to capitalise on the room's distinctive architecture while also providing a connection to the surrounding context.
"The Barrel Vault's dramatic dimensions inspired us to conceive a design that activates its public potential and emphasises its spatial character," said Shigematsu in a project description.
An "infinite catwalk" was envisioned for the arched space, which recalls Dior's fall 1999 show at Versailles' The Orangery – a greenhouse with a dramatic vaulted ceiling.
This area of the exhibition is divided into three sections. One portion features The Revolutionary New Look, which presents pieces from Christian Dior's breakout collection in 1947. Mannequins donning monochromatic ensembles stand on red polycarbonate steps that are bordered by red and white walls.
The central portion features a section titled From Paris to the World, which showcases colourful garments envisioned for different markets around the globe. Mannequins are arrayed on backlit, milky white terraces, which also were constructed using polycarbonate components.
The far end of the Barrel Vault features the Ladies in Dior section, where gowns worn by prominent women are displayed within ached niches. The niches are set within a translucent wall that extends to the ceiling.
Beyond the vaulted space, visitors encounter a series of rooms, each with its own look.
The Fields of Flowers section, which features floral-themed dresses, is awash in varied tones of pink. The backdrop consists of a fabric scrim with an abstracted image of roses. A painting by Claude Monet hangs on a wall – one of several notable artworks that figure into the show.
The Splendors of the 18th Century section takes cues from Versailles. Metallic wall graphics were informed by the palace's Hall of Mirrors, while gold flooring was inspired by the parquet wood flooring at Versailles.
Two galleries present clothing created under the leadership of the six creative directors who have successively led the French fashion house since Christian Dior's sudden death in 1957 at the age of 52.
A range of garments, from tailored jackets to extravagant gowns, are exhibited in grey-toned rooms with curving platforms. The directors featured are Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, and Raf Simons, along with the current creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Other sections in the show explore Dior's exquisite accessories and the process for creating a haute couture garment. In one area, toiles – design mockups made of cotton – are displayed on a vertical wall.
"A glassless mirror ceiling above the presentation of the toiles continues the image of the toiles vertically, and an abstract graphic wallpaper of the pattern of a Raf Simons-designed Dior coat covers the surrounding walls," the team described.
The show also features a section that explores the connection between Dior and Dallas. Christian Dior actually visited the Texan city in 1947 to receive the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award. The award is bestowed annually by the retailer Neiman Marcus, which is headquartered in Dallas.
"We are excited to welcome this innovative creative voice back to our city and to offer DMA audiences the opportunity to be inspired by the remarkable legacy of a global icon," said Agustín Arteaga, a director at the museum.
Dior: From Paris to the World will be on view in Dallas through 1 September 2019. The show was previously staged at the Denver Art Museum, with a different exhibition design by OMA.
Dior seems to be a popular subject at American and European museums these days. In addition to Dallas and Denver, shows about the French fashion house have been recently held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the V&A Museum in London. Moreover, from mid 2017 to early 2018, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris presented a comprehensive exhibition in celebration of Dior's 70th anniversary.
Photography is by James Florio.