Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles Opens at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts June 14, 2013


Petersens

NASHVILLE, TN--Feb. 8, 2013: This summer, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts will present Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles, an exhibition of unique and luxurious autos from the 1930s and '40s. Sensuous Steel includes 18 automobiles and three motorcycles drawn from some of the most renowned car collectors and collections in the automotive world. Organized by Guest Curator Ken Gross, former Petersen Automotive Museum director, the exhibitionwill be on view in the Center's Ingram Gallery from June 14 through September 15, 2013.

While today automotive manufacturers often strive for economy and efficiency, there was a time when elegance reigned.  Like the Frist Center's historic building, the automobiles included in Sensuous Steel display the classic grace and modern luxury of Art Deco design. An eclectic, machine-inspired decorative style that thrived between the two World Wars, Art Deco combined craft motifs with industrial materials and lavish embellishments. The movement began in Paris in the early 1920s and was propelled to prominence in 1927 with the success of the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. Automakers embraced the sleek iconography of motion and aircraft-inspired materials connotative of Art Deco, creating memorable automobiles that still thrill all who see them.

"Sensuous Steel is the first major museum auto exhibition devoted entirely to Art Deco automobiles, and there could be no more fitting a venue than the Frist Center's landmark historic Art Deco building, which was completed in 1934," notes Frist Center Executive Director Dr. Susan H. Edwards. "Art Deco styling influenced everything from architecture to sleek passenger trains and luxury liners, furniture, appliances, jewelry, objets d'art, signage, fashionable clothing and, of course, automobiles. The works in this exhibition convey the breadth, diversity, and stunning artistry of cars designed in the Art Deco style."

"Rapidly changing and ever-evolving, the automobile became the perfect metal canvas upon which industrial designers expressed the vital spirit of the interwar period," explains Guest Curator Ken Gross. "To give the illusion of dramatic movement and forward thrust, cars of the 1930s and '40s merged gentle curves with angular edges. These automobiles were made from the finest materials and sported beautifully crafted ornamentation, geometric grillwork, and the elegant miniature statuary of hood ornaments.

"The classic cars of the Art Deco age remain today as among the most visually exciting, iconic and refined designs of the twentieth century," Mr. Gross continues.

Among the automobiles included in Sensuous Steel are:

  • 1929 Cord L-29 Cabriolet- Designed by Alan Leamy who is known for styling the famed Auburn Speedster, the Cord L-29 Cabriolet was the first U.S. front-drive luxury car. It was painted its notable burnt orange color by its former owner, Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • 1937 Delahaye 135 MS Roadster by Figoni and Falaschi- Created for the 1937 Paris Auto Show, this car was called "a Paris gown on wheels." The roadster features aluminum coachwork and a leather interior by Hermes. Most significant are four features that were patented by Figoni and Falaschi, which included a roll-down disappearing windshield.
  • 1934 Edsel Ford Model 40 Speedster- Designed by E.T. "Bob" Gregorie specifically for Edsel B. Ford, the speedster features a two-seater aluminum alloy body patterned after an Indy race car. It is the only one of its kind ever made.
  • 1934 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow Sedan- Designed by Phillip Wright, the Arrow Sedan was originally built for the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition (1933-34). This car was the epitome of luxury with a price tag of $10,000 (roughly $170,000 today). Only five of these sedans were made, with three of them surviving to this day.
  • 1935 Stout Scarab- Bill Stout, an aircraft engineer who developed the Ford Tri-Motor aircraft, began creating a radical sedan concept in the early 1930s. The end result, the Scarab, featured a roomy interior that boasted moveable seats and a small table. This unique auto anticipated the first minivan.

Ken Gross served as guest curator for The Allure of the Automobile, a nationally acclaimed exhibition displayed at Atlanta's High Museum of Art in 2010; additionally, he developed a revised version of the exhibition for the Portland Art Museum the following year. Gross curated Speed: The Art of the Performance Automobile last yearat the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City. A highly respected automotive journalist for more than 40 years, Gross writes for numerous publications including  AutoWeek, Playboy, Hagerty's Magazine, Sports Car Market, Motor Trend Classic, Popular Mechanics, msnautos.com, Old Cars Weekly and The Rodder's Journal. A noted authority on automobiles, he has judged at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance for 24 years. Gross also judges at the Amelia Island Concours and was the Chief Judge at the Rodeo Drive Concours d'Elegance. Additionally, Gross has received many awards including the 2009 IAMA Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Lee Iacocca Award, the 2008 Washington Auto Press "Golden Quill Award," the Society of Automotive Historians' "Cugnot Award," and "The James Valentine Memorial Award" for excellence in automotive historical research.

The exhibition will be accompanied by two audio tours, one for adults and one for children.

Ticket Information

Admission to Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles is free for Frist Center members and $10.00 for adults. Visitors 18 and younger are admitted free of charge. Advance tickets can be purchased on site at the Frist Center beginning April 1, 2013.

Beginning April 1, Frist Center members may reserve tickets by calling the Frist Center Member Hotline at 615.744.3248.

To accommodate out-of-town visitors, a limited number of non-member advance tickets for each day of the exhibition will be available online starting April 1, 2013 through NowPlayingNashville , an initiative of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Each order carries a $1.50 convenience charge that benefits the Community Foundation. Purchasers will download a voucher from NowPlayingNashville that will be redeemable at the Frist Center for exhibition admission on the specific date for which the voucher has been bought. Tickets purchased through NowPlayingNashville are non-refundable.

During the run of Sensuous Steel, Nashville's Lane Motor Museum and the Frist Center will offer reciprocal admission discounts when ticket stubs are presented. Each ticket stub from the Lane Motor Museum is good for one half-price admission at the Frist, and each Frist Center ticket stub can be used at the Lane Motor Museum to receive a discount on a single ticket. The Lane Motor Museum is located at 702 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville. Learn more at http://lanemotormuseum.org/

Exhibition Credit

This exhibition was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts with Guest Curator Ken Gross.

Exhibition Catalogue

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by Peter Bodensteiner and Stance & Speed, LLC in conjunction with the Frist Center. All automobile photographs are by Peter Harholdt. The catalogue contains scholarly essays by exhibition curator Ken Gross, who will discuss automobile design in the culture of the 1920s and 1930s, and independent historian Thomas Mellins, whose essay places the automobiles in the context of the international explosion of the Art Deco style in design, architecture, and the visual arts. Individual object entries are by Ken Gross, Jonathan Stein, and Richard Adatto. Ken Gross is the editor.

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