The House of Dior joins Venetian Heritage for a spectacular soiree in Venice celebrating La Serenissima's 60th Art Biennale. Natasha Fraser takes Cabana behind the scenes of the memorably magnificent event, with insights from Cordelia de Castellane, artistic director of Dior Maison. 



© Filippo Pincolini 


Just as Christian Dior was renowned for befriending, protecting and fervently believing in artists, the House of Dior continues such ties. This attitude was confirmed by the French luxury brand’s presence at the 60th Venice Biennale.

Indeed, the House of Dior’s official role as donor ranged from sponsoring artists, such as the Claire Fontaine collective, Eva Jospin at Museo Fortuny and the Cosmic Garden at Biennale Arte 2024 - which showcases the work of Madhvi and Manu Parekh - as well as partnering with the Venetian Heritage Foundation.

For the third and consecutive time, the House of Dior was behind VHF’s charity ball, which promotes and preserves the wonders of Venice. “It was very important to be able to host this grand ball together,” says Cordelia de Castellane, the artistic director of Dior Home, who organized the event that took place at the Arsenale Vecchio, Venice’s military naval space that was especially opened for the occasion.


© Pierre Moutin 


Christened the Naumachia Ball, it was inspired by the re-enactments of naval battles – think stupendous water shows – that originated from the Roman Empire but were watched and enjoyed by the European royal courts during the 17th and 18th century. “We had the idea of doing something about boats, the sea and, after research, decided on the Naumachia as the ball’s theme.”

The spectacular soirée was attended by the likes of Delphine Arnault – the President and CEO of Dior couture, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, designer Peter Marino, brand ambassador Beatrice Borromeo and her husband Pierre Casiraghi; artists Eva Jospin, Jean-Michel Othoniel and Mark Quinn, and photographer Brigitte Lacombe.

“The House of Dior has always supported and loved art,” says de Castellane. “Helping to save Venice’s heritage is something that remains very precious.” This year, the gala ball raised funds to restore the Arsenale’s Porta Magna and renovate Venice's beautiful Ca’ d’Oro Museum – a mythical place known for its Venetian Gothic architecture and Renaissance treasures. A curious aside but just as Ca’ d’Oro means the 'House of Gold', it evokes Jean Cocteau’s words about Christian Dior who he referred to as, “a light genius in tune with his time whose magical name includes God and gold.”


© Filippo Pincolini


The Naumachia Ball was prepared in secret. “We started before the summer,” reveals de Castellane. “It always takes about eight months to develop a project like this… and we’re quite fast.” Since the ball’s seated dinner was being served in the Sala degli Squadratori – the Arsenale’s most imposing building – de Castellane went for poetic drama. The walls were draped in ruby and emerald velvet while the lengthy ceiling had different swags of the velvet fabric that billowed across – “evoking the sails of the boats of the Naumachia,” notes de Castellane.

Meanwhile, the vast gold dusted glass chandeliers – purposely hung low - created a radiant and looming otherworldliness. “They made the space magical by floating in the room,” she says, pointing out that the chandeliers were cut and blown by the same artisan in Murano, responsible for all the glass goblets.


© Filippo Pincolini 


Just as each glass for each guest was different, the three long tables offered a different colour reminiscent of Venice. “The tablecloths were inspired by Harlequin patterns - a reference to Venice’s Carnival - and obviously the plates matched all the tablecloths,” she says. Naturally, de Castellane used the Cannage plates - an iconic Dior style due to the wickerwork pattern, now emboldened by the Dior crest, in the middle.

With regard to the table décor that de Castellane describes as “an imaginary voyage,” she chose mirrors to symbolise water – emphasizing the sea’s importance to Venice – and then sourced Venice’s superior craftspeople to reconstruct La Serenissima’s much-loved gondolas and “most important buildings” such as St Mark’s Clock Tower.


© Pierre Moutin  


The exquisitely intricate wooden pieces – each building was handmade – were then placed on the mirrors, giving an impression of being ‘afloat on water.’ “You could also see the gondolas, passing through all the flowers on the tables,” she adds.

Another de Castellane touch was “the little lampshades with the gondolas drawn on them, inspired by the engravings of the Manocchia.” “We added small flowers to recall the gentleness of Monsieur Dior’s universe,” she says.


© Pierre Moutin  


As always, Eric Chauvin was in charge of the floral arrangements. “He’s an artist whose work resembles a painting,” de Castellane says. Only seasonal flowers were used while each flower was grouped according to colour and assigned table suggesting “a poetic naval battle.”

“Flowers were part of Christian Dior’s world,” Cordelia de Castellane reasons. “It was important to pay homage to the history of Monsieur Dior.”


© Filippo Pincolini

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