BMW Z4 car art

The Car as Art

I’ve heard it said that a car is a form of kinetic art – a sculpture in motion. The Museum of Fine Art in Boston believed that Ralph Lauren’s collection of automobiles deserved a five month exhibit. But others have said things like “true art can serve no purpose other than to be art.” Of course this leads to the conclusion that a car could never also be a piece of art. There’s been the occasional collaboration between artists and car makers, including many famous BMW examples, but I’m not sure that’s evidence enough to show that cars, beautiful cars, are art.

I need to make that distinction, not all cars can be considered art, cars are not created equal. Neither are paintings, some paintings serve to adorn the wall of a doctor’s office waiting room, other paintings serve to ignite a revolution, to capture an emotion, to forge a connection with God.

I think people can generally agree that cars can be beautiful. A Ferrari 250 Lusso, or a Bugatti Type 57A are both examples of beautiful cars. Their lines, their proportions, their delicate swooshes, and robust humps.

I realize that beautiful cars will never receive the same treatment as “real” works of art. Art dealers won’t be trading in Bugatti’s any time soon. A student studying Art Deco, won’t be looking at Duesenbergs – though he or she should be.

A two-minute video on YouTube sparked this little rant. A guy rebuilding an engine for his Triumph Spitfire took 3000 photos and produced a wonderful piece of stop motion animation (see below). Even if it is beautiful, a car that’s doing it’s job is doing more than taking up space, and for some reason that means that at best cars are Industrial Art. The logic behind this conclusion escapes me. Cars can have a political or social message (hot rods for example) and they certainly have aesthetic value. Granted most cars aren’t art, but some cars are. And if someone in the art world disagrees with this conclusion, feel free to send an email – – or leave a comment. Until otherwise persuaded, cars are art – so what if they also happen to be a joy to listen to, to feel, to be transported in.