The High Museum of Art, located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, is pleasing quite a few car enthusiasts with a new exhibit celebrating 17 concept cars and their designers. It’s not the first exhibit of its kind, but it’s certainly one of the best received. The exhibit features all sorts of prototype goodies for gearheads, including the Firebird I XP-21, the 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero, and other vehicles that didn’t quite make the leap from concept to street car production. The exhibit, running until September 7, 2014, represents the only chance many car enthusiasts will have to see works from the maddest minds from BMW, Bugatti, and other producers from the 1930’s onward.
‘But Cars Aren’t Art!’
As with any other exhibit that doesn’t feature 200-year-old paintings from the great artists of bygone eras, Atlanta’s exhibit is eliciting cries of, “that’s not art” from aesthetic snobs the world over. Unfortunately or otherwise, the ridiculous cries are nothing new. Like video games, cars, despite requiring a certain artistic vision to produce, don’t get nearly the amount of credit they’re due. Like other forms of “traditional” art, cars have been shown to inspire a certain je ne sais quoi within people. That, Aristotle would say, is the very definition of what makes art art.
“I think it is great that people are starting to appreciate car design for what it really is, art. People need to open their eyes and realize that cars are more than just machines that get you from point A to point B, a lot of thought goes into how a car looks to make it appealing to the eye,” says JP, Head of the Wholesale Department for Mac Auto Parts. “If making something appealing to the eye is not art, I guess I don’t know art.”
Still, other comparisons can be made to drive the point home. Art from the first comic book featuring Marvel’s Wolverine character, undoubtedly art, recently sold for nearly $660,000 at auction. If we can’t judge cars on their ability to evoke emotion, then perhaps we’ll have to judge them by the worldwide desire to collect them. James Hull, a British collector of more than 450 cars, is selling the whole lot for £100 million. Another British collector recently sold a 1963 Aston Martin DB5 for £9 million. Like other art, cars are clearly an object of obsession and desire.
Of course, approaching the issue with dollar and pound signs is folly. After all, art may be physical, but what it does for us — or more aptly, to us — is something far more intangible. Regardless of whether cars are art or not, car lovers should enjoy Atlanta’s new exhibit — all the rest can stick to their fuddy-duddy museums full of boring paintings.