I am not one to criticize French taste – I usually hold it in the highest regard. However, the current Dior exhibition in Paris is making me think that maybe they don’t always get it right.
A trend has been building in the museum field for twenty years now, led primarily by the Met in New York, for making fashion exhibitions into installations that look more like Bergdorf Goodman windows — but too much window dressing can make forests out of trees. Perhaps I am more of a purist – I am happy with a good clean presentation of salient artifacts so I can appreciate every item and understand its placement in the exhibition and interpretation in the text. Sometimes multiples are a great way to make a point but quantity very quickly overpowers quality when used unnecessarily, and presentation overpowers content when the settings and props overpower the artifacts.
Would any other art form be subject to this kind of window dressing? Would paintings by Picasso be shown suspended from the ceiling like a flock of geese? Would old masters be reframed in bubblegum pink plastic frames? in the mid 1990s, the Art Gallery of Ontario created a Victorian picture gallery to show how paintings used to be presented, from floor to ceiling – it was a great way to show their, frankly, second-rate art because the presentation was more interesting than the art itself.