MoMA's new exhibit is all about automobiles and art

Automania is the Museum of Modern Art’s latest exhibition – an exploration of cars as art, art of cars, and the challenges of design posed by something with so many essential features.

The nine cars featured in the show were lifted into the museum’s Sculpture Garden exhibition space by crane. They range from a restored Type 1 Volkswagen sedan (better known as a Beetle, or VW Bug) to the atomic-age 1946 Cisitalia, to the vintage majesty of an Airstream Land Yacht.

Aside from the cars themselves, the exhibition explores the ways the automobile has infiltrated art since its invention. In pride of place is a sketch of car design by Frank Lloyd Wright, who clearly carried that aesthetic into his architecture, and Andy Warhol’s “Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times,” which is evocative horror not because of any detail in the collage, but because virtually everyone in the country has been affected by at least one car crash.

“It’s really remarkable when you think about the ways that cars can bring different kinds of audiences into a place like MoMA,” said Andrew Gardner, one of MoMA’s curators involved with Automania. “That’s a really good feeling.”

Gardner does however say that the show is as much a critique as a celebration, addressing the fact that most developed countries have been irrevocably shaped by the idea that everyone should own a car.

“It is fundamental to virtually everything that we do in modern society and how we operate within it,” Gardner said. “But then, at the same time, [we] know that they’re polluting our cities and contributing to the loss of habitats and changing the whole way that we live in the world. I think beginning in the early- to mid-1960s, you really start seeing these artists who were kind of taking the automobile to task.”

The cars will be on display through October 11, the gallery portion of the exhibit until January 2.

Image: Roman Belogorodov /

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