Can a Car Ever Be Art?

March 6th, 2013

Ford Taurus sculpture

Jeremy Clarkson, on his Facebook page yesterday, posed the question above. Can a car be art? Most of the nearly 2,000 comments simply said, “Yes,” but the question struck me and reminded me of at least two examples of cars also serving as art.

A car certainly requires art as it evolves from an idea in a designer’s mind to a clay form to a concept. Typically, once production begins, any art that was involved in creating the idea of the car gets lost in the practicalities of building it.

That’s not always true, of course, and I do believe a few examples of cars could be classified not only as automobiles, but as fine examples of pristine art.

The first car I thought of is the Jaguar E-Type. Enzo Ferrari himself called the E-Type the most beautiful car ever made, and its merits as a piece of fine art were solidified when a roadster was added to the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1996. Only one other vehicle had that honor before it, a 1946 Cisitalia 202 GT.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

The E-Type alone should be enough to satisfy Clarkson’s question in the affirmative. While I am not aware of any other vehicles on permanent display in major art museums, the Seattle Art Museum has (or at least had) a sculpture hanging from the rafters that includes two Ford Taurus vehicles and an assortment of laser-like rods poked through them (at top). It’s weird, it’s unexpected… it’s art.

So can a car be art?

Of course! Whether the artistic expression is in the design itself or a car is used as a platform for another artistic expression, cars can absolutely be art. I happen to be struck by the sexy lines of Aston Martin cars and find them to be the ultimate example of cars doubling as art. Other people might think the gaping grin of the Mazda3 is artistic, while still others might harken back to the times of the swoopy curves found on cars of the 1940s.

That’s the beautiful thing about cars and art, they can both serve to express emotion and connect with people in ways both expected and not.

What cars do you think could be called art?

-tgriffith

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