The female-focused show is being held at Christian Dior’s captivating – and rarely seen – former home, the Château de La Colle Noire
It’s easy to miss the Château de La Colle Noire. Hidden on the plains of Montauroux, off the winding roads of Provence, the former home of Christian Dior feels like a luxurious hillside secret. Its entrance is marked only by a deceptively narrow driveway, set back from the road by rows of towering foliage. It’s only once you cross the gate, and begin the walk through the Tuscan Cypress-lined entrance, that its majestic beauty starts to reveal itself.
The Château de La Colle Noire is a captivating corner of the world, and one that is rarely seen by outsiders. Acquired by Christian Dior in the early 20th century, the location served as a respite for the bustling frenzy of Paris – a serene rural retreat that the designer would come to view as his “true home”. Dior took meticulous care refurbishing the building and redesigning each room, as well as the vast surrounding garden. It was here – amongst his carefully cultivated jasmine and may rose flowers – that he would come to find the inspiration behind his now legendary perfumes.
The site has been closed to the public for decades, opening its gates only for special occasions. Thankfully, this year marks one of them. For the next two weeks, the Château de La Colle Noire will be open for visitors, with a special Dior-inspired art exhibition – Miss Dior Exhibition: 12 Women Artists – taking place throughout the space. The show is a celebration of women, spotlighting the work of 12 female artists who have each created a carte blanche piece inspired by Miss Dior perfume.
The artworks vary in both their style and methods. Dutch artist Sabine Marcelis opens the exhibition with a striking, fluid sculpture – a soft pink ribbon, tumbling through the air, inspired by the perfume’s signature bow – while Marcella Barceló, from Spain, creates a luminous, kaleidoscopic Miss Dior bottle, layered with mirrors and neon glass. Representing the UK is Shropshire-born designer Bethan Laura Wood, who reimagines a garden folly surrounded by cascading glass flora (an aroma-inspired space for “dreaming, romanticism and fantasy”, in her own words). Other contributors include American sculptor Anya Kielar, Chinese ceramicist Hua Wang, and French artist Mimosa Echard, among others.
“It’s so exciting to see 12 different women all interpret the same brief, but the outcome is wildly different,” says Wood. For her piece, she wanted to celebrate that variety and complexity, particularly from the perspective of a Dior woman. “[Dior can be] very floral, very traditionally feminine, but you can also look at the structuring of the garments to see it’s very graphic. So I wanted to make something that spoke to those two sides of a woman.”
While the art would be captivating enough on its own, the setting adds a resplendent final flourish. Each piece is situated in different parts of the Château de La Colle Noire, which is still filled with many of Dior’s personal belongings. Visitors can see his opulent marble bathtub, overlooking the rolling hills of the Varois, where he would soak for hours and brainstorm over designs. They can see his study, where he would work from morning to night, and his bedroom, where he would consult the tarot, align his charms (he was highly superstitious) and look out onto his beloved garden. For the artists, to work in such a space was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “It’s a special thing,“ says Wood. “There’s nothing like being able to physically come and sit in the beautiful garden and discover the little nuances of this house ... it’s really lovely to see the pieces here, and also to see the conversation that the team do have chosen to have by placing the different works in different spaces.”
She also adds that the all-women premise of the show, inspired by Dior’s enduring love for his sister Catherine, is still a necessity in today’s contemporary art world. “I’m very privileged in the setup that I have, in that I’ve had a lot of strong females around me,” Wood says. “But there’s still the reality outside of those contexts, and it’s still valid to highlight and make shows where they celebrate diversity, so we can move away from stereotypes. We’re all different ... [and it’s] beautiful to see so many different varieties of work.”
Miss Dior Exhibition: 12 Women Artists will run at the Château de La Colle Noire until November 1, 2021. Entrance is free, and you book tickets here.