The Allure of the Automobile: High Museum of Art Atlanta
A new show, Allure of the Automobile at the High Museum of Art Atlanta, offers a fresh perspective on the exquisite contours of rare 20th century classic automobiles. The exhibit focuses on elegance defined by era and the subtext places the automobile as a work of decorative art. Set squarely among the landscape of Art Moderne and Postwar Modernity, the car and art worlds converge at an engaging intersection.
The 18 cars selected for the exhibit expand on the premise that former Museum of Modern of Art curator Arthur Drexler articulated in 1951 during the MOMA show Eight Automobiles. “Automobiles are hollow, rolling sculpture,” Drexler said. “They have interior spaces corresponding to an outer form, like buildings, but the designer’s aesthetic purpose is to enclose the functioning parts of an automobile, as well as its passengers, in a package suggesting directed movement along the ground.”
What Allure of the Automobile does to take this concept further framed by retrospective glance at the defining era of coach building. The cars are divided into Pre-World War II Design: Opulence and Luxury and Post-World War II Design: Speed. Both American makes such as the 1934 Packard and the 1954 Dodge Firearrow and European makes such as the 1937 Delage D8-120s and the 1938/39 Porsche Type 64 are included. This display marks the first occasion the one-of-a-kind Porsche Type 64 shell has left Germany.
Automotive historian and former Peterson Automotive Museum director Ken Gross acted as guest curator of the exhibition, whose knowledge of each car’s pedigree is encyclopedic. Gross explained how Clark Gable call his Duesenberg the best car built in America and recounted how Gary Cooper and Gable were rumored to race down their Duesenbergs down Sunset Blvd. He worked closed with the High curators to translate the automotive world to the museum context.
The special exhibit is the first of it’s kind for Ron Labaco, High’s Curator of Decorative Art and Design, but he’s delved deep into the design analysis, finding many parallels to his areas of expertise. “It’s about what denotes a car as a masterpiece,” said Labaco. “It’s a direct connection between decorative arts. You can compare them with Faberge Eggs.”
The Allure of the Automobile opens to the public Mar.21 and runs through June 20, 2010.
1961 Ferrari 250 Short-Wheelbase Berlinetta, “SEFAC Hot Rod”