Full throttle: a fleet of supercharged art cars goes on show in Miami
By Jonathan Bell
The link between cars and art has always been strong. While the Italian Futurists - perhaps the first movement to really engage with the rapid motorisation of the world - hailed the vision of speed, chaos, dust and destruction the motor car promised, others have embraced it for purely sybaritic reasons; fast cars are one of the perks of fame, fortune and an unconventional approach to life.
Miami’s 1111 Lincoln Road is the perfect venue for a new showing of the ultimate collection of art cars during Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami. Exploring the history of auto-art mash-ups, Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile arranges a dizzying selection of contemporary art cars around the ramps and offset columns of Herzog & de Meuron’s award-winning multi-use car park space. With exhibits that range from one of César’s celebrated crushed ’car bricks’ to a cheekily spot-painted Leyland Mini - an early piece of Hirst brand extension - to its precursor, a squiggle saturated Buick given the Keith Haring treatment, nearly every conceivable angle of the car’s relationship with art is covered.
Ron Arad has also been at the crusher, and his pancaked Fiat 500 evokes affection and dismay in equal measure, while American artist Lucien Smith has stayed with the theme of decay. ’The sound of the engine still running and for the last time they locked eyes, together again in the end’ is the wretched carcass of a pick-up truck turned shooting target.
Cars in art are either conduits for sex or death. The Brookyln art collective Bruce High Quality Foundation have taken two elderly Beetles and set them at each other’s throats, anthropomorphising the familiar forms into a bio-mechanical brawl. Dan Colen and Nate Lowman have turned a battered old Jag into a chaotic receptacle of dead and dying technologyto create the hipster-baiting ’Welfare Mothers Make Better Lovers’. Of all the exhibits, the late Salvatore Scarpitta’s Ernie Triplett Special is one of the most intriguing, being a fully-functional race car used by the artist’s own sprint car team in Pennsylvania.
Richard Prince is also an auto obsessive, preferring the 1970s-era muscle cars. His ’Vanishing Point (The Artist Cut)’ is a contemporary update of earlier works, referencing the iconic road movie and the menacing forms of Dodge’s old and new. Richard Phillips is another subscriber to the cult of the muscle car. ’Playboy Charger’ is a fully functional spin-off from Phillips’ recent ’Playboy Marfa’ installation. Other featured artists include Tom Sachs, Franz West, Virginia Overton, Kenny Scharf, Olivier Mosset and Joshua Callaghan, who is using a LaFerrari, the show sponsor’s latest model, as the basis for a life-size charcoal rubbing, underway throughout the duration of the show. Curated by Venus Over Manhattan, the show makes exceptional use of the 1111 space, fulfilling its original role as a place to both park and show art.