DIOR + THE ARTS

The Christian Dior show at the Museum of Decorative Arts is more than a blockbuster. It goes on for room after room after room. There are color-coded displays, giant scenescapes done by theme and plenty of each designer who headed the label. Even the three-story tall main hall – at every level – is filled by gowns.

But: there is plenty of work by Christian Dior himself – if you can manage the crowds and clicking cameras.

The founder’s work stands out by a mile. Despite the inclusion of his numerous replacements, there’s no competition. Wonderful things were done by a young Yves St. Laurent and (of course) by John Galliano. Both were – and both remain – exceptional. Yet there’s no denying Monsieur Dior towers over it all.

He had something no one else possessed. But what it was is harder to say. After the war, why was he able to totally re-think couture? Why did he have such a faultless sense for the feminine? Like Louis XIV, Dior was a complete original.

One thing could be his other passions, all of which were quintessentially French.

Before he ever designed, for instance, Christian Dior ran a gallery. The show begins with art by artists he knew and liked. Included are Giacometti, Dalí (the piece above), Alexander Calder, Leonor Fini, the poets Max Jacob and Jean Cocteau – and theatrical designer Christian “Bébé” Bérard.

Also like Louis XIV, Dior loved gardens, flowers and scent. He revelled in 18th-century décor and collected antiques.

This enormous show really needed an edit; it’s too easy to OD on the cheaper glamour. Yet, at every turn, the first Dior’s work stands out. Maybe it’s an over-the-top way of proving the point.

Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve runs until 7 January 2018 at les Arts Décoratifs

NOW THAT’S PUBLIC ART

The 13e arrondissement has made its elevated métro line an “open-air” museum. They’re doing it with public art in the form of giant murals. All these are commissions by urban artists, chosen by the mairie from around the world

The artist presents a set of proposals but the final (sponsored) work is chosen by the residents.

With all the leaves off the trees, now is a great time to see them. Just take line 6 south of the river to get the view.

• If you’re not in Paris, you can check out this map of the 50 sponsored works.

GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS!

Penelope Bagieu is one of the most popular artists in France – and it’s no accident. She trained at the respected Ecole normale supérieure des Arts décoratifs. But, more importantly, she also studied at London’s St. Martin’s College of Art. There marketing one’s art is implicit to the curriculum and Bagieu mastered it.

Returning to Paris in 2007, she launched the blog-webcomic Ma vie est tout à fait fascinante (My life is totally fascinating). This, and her spinoff Josephine character consolidated a post-Sex and the City, “girly” wave in comics.

But this was just the entry card. Bagieu went on to confound the stereotype. She flourished as an illustrator, entered animation and the movies, created work with the likes of Joaan Sfar and Boulet, and drew a biography of Mamas & Papas’ singer Mama Cass.

Her Culottées (loosely, Women Who Dare) web series was commissioned by Le Monde and two collections have appeared as books. Now, gallery Barbier & Mathon has a show of the portraits. The female pioneers here range from Frida to The Shaggs. Like its companion show, La Tradition by Blutch, it’s great.

Culottées runs at Barbier et Mathon until 2 December