ART FACE-TO-FACE

The Louvre is a place crammed with surprises. One of the biggest is the line of graphic novels they publish. Each is by invitation and the artist can do what he wishes. But there’s one requirement: every story takes place in the Louvre.

Artists have come up with fantasies, sci-fi and thrillers. But the best Louvre comic does something simple – it just watches people. It’s called Cruising through the Louvre by David Prudhomme and it’s a tour-de-force tour of the museum.

The drawings are made with every kind of pencil. Together, they’re an almost silent movie with little plot. But the book captures how, despite exhaustion and crowds, visitors still commune with the art.

It’s not an action book but it is a gem of observation.

So if you can’t make it over to see the Mona Lisa, this humble comic could be your next best bet.

Cruising Through the Louvre is published in English by NBM

BALLET OF THE SECONDHAND

This summer the shoemaker Repetto asked ballet dancers to donate their old pointe slippers. For every pair of toe shoes delivered to their stores, a brand-new pair was sent to a student in Cuba, Haiti or Brazil.

Called On Your Toes!, the project recuperated – then donated – 500 pairs. Some struggling students received fresh, satin shoes. But Repetto didn’t waste the old ones either.

They were given to young French artists, each of whom was sponsored in a project.It could be anything – film, sculpture, installation – but it had to be ballet-based.

The pieces are now on show in their boutiques.

Although all concern dance they’re all totally different. I like the installation of deconstructed shoes (“Carrion”) inspired by the pain a ballerina faces. But also “Stories”, which was made by a comics artist.

In that one, each shoe is part of a different anecdote. The full tale is a strip, a bande dessinée of its own.

You can read more about On Your Toes! here.

THERE’S ONLY ONE DIOR

Fashion is full of mythic names. But none of them will ever rival that of Christian Dior. It took his particular panache to make the whole thing magic. This year his company marks it seventh decade and Les Arts Décoratifs is giving it a massive tribute.

There have been plenty of shows about Dior. But this one actually explains why he remains unique.

It’s not least because he proved the perfect man for his moment. When Dior launched his house in 1947, France was really on her knees. World War II had officialized hardship, shortages and “make-do” dressing.

Dior banished all that with a single gesture: his tight-waisted, full-skirted, womanly New Look.

Those proportions revived the French textile industry. But Dior’s cocktail gowns and ball dresses were equally lavish – so they brought back lacemaking, embroiderers and costume jewellery. The most important quality, though, was Dior’s aesthetic. His outlook was as quintessentially French as that of Louis XIV.

Dior’s work privileged qualities always prized in France: understated drama and an almost austere elegance. It was an old recipe but this couturier made it vibrant.

Dior had everything he needed to pull this off. During the 1920s, before his stint in the Army, he had worked as a fashion illustrator. He then started designing, first under Robert Piguet and, then, Lucien Lelong.

But, for several years, Dior had run an art gallery. Plus, as an erudite celebrant of the 18th century, he both loved and collected rare antiquities.

The other great French passion he shared was for gardens.

All of these obsessions fed into his work – creating what would become fashion’s most timeless template. The show makes every link clear, placing his classic designs among those paintings, sculptures and objets d’art he adored.

Felled by a heart attack at age 52, Christian Dior designed for only a decade. But the show follows his legacy through six galleries – tracing how it has guided the subsequent Dior directors.

The pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri are beautiful. But, of the six, only Saint Laurent and Galliano really make the maison their own. Its initial proprietor still holds the key.

Photos for Les Arts Décoratifs © Adrien Dirand

• Christian Dior runs through 7 January 2018 at Les Arts Décoratifs