A celebration of Léon Bakst at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco


Villa Sauber is presenting the exhibition Designing Dreams to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the iconic Ballets Russes costume and set designer.



A celebration of Léon Bakst at the Nouveau Musée National de MonacoThe two-site Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (NMNM) is turning the spotlight on dance this autumn. While Villa Paloma is exploring choreography and its movements, Villa Sauber is showcasing the world imagined by Léon Bakst, one of the greatest modern set designers. Born in 1866, he created designs for the Ballets Russes in the 1910s that contributed to the company’s global success.

Sourced from the collections of the NNMM, permanent loans from the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, and many international loans, 150 drawings, models and costumes have been brought together for the exhibition, immersing visitors, from one room to the next, in the ballets Schéhérazade, Le Spectre de la Rose, L’Après-midi d’un faune and Daphnis et Chloé.


Decor of rich, patterned fabrics

“The thread of the project is the idea of the dream. In Le Spectre de la Rose, a girl dozing after a ball dreams of  he male spirit of a rose.

Similarly, in L’Après-midi d’un faune, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky,the dancer interacts with nymphs in an erotic, dream-like setting,” says Célia Bernasconi, co-curator with Professor John E. Bowlt, who has already collaborated with the museum for the Ballets Russes centenary.

The NMNM has commissioned visual artist and choreographer Nick Mauss to design the exhibition decor in Villa Sauber. He has created monumental wall paintings inspired by printed fabrics designed by Bakst, giving the Russian designer’s work a contemporary twist.


From decorative arts to fashion

Drawing on references from the ancient cultures of Greece, Persia and Siam as well as Russian folk art, Bakst created a synthesis between the Eastern arts and Art Nouveau. Informed by archival material from the era, the exhibition is punctuated with works by artists such as Jean Cocteau, Valentine Hugo and George Barbier, who contributed to the promotion of Léon Bakst’s decorative art. “As the exhibition places particular emphasis on textile design, we decided it should end with a room devoted to fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent,” continues Célia Bernasconi. The show closes with a display of accessorised models by the designer, as well as presentation boards of the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche 1991 collection, which was directly inspired by the scenery and costumes of Schéhérazade. 


Designing Dreams
23 October to 15 January at Villa Sauber
Danse, Danse, Danse,
23 September to
8 January at Villa Paloma