While NYC is loaded with museums dedicated to art, science and even sex, there’s no institution focused solely on transportation. For anyone hoping that there one day might be an east coast outpost of LA’s famed Petersen Museum, the Automania exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art offers a bit of consolation. MoMA is taking advantage of the post-pandemic reopening and summer weather to pull the covers off their car collection and exhibit them outdoors in the Sculpture Garden. Automania explores the positive and negative ways the car influenced twentieth century culture globally.
MoMA’s car collection is dominated by examples from Europe, the sole American vehicle on view is a 1953 Jeep M-38A1 Utility Truck. There’s a potential long list of American cars that warrant inclusion and preservation within the sphere of MoMA’s modernism focus. At least a ’60 muscle car (I’d go for a Charger) and a ’50s wagon help round out the intersection of design and distinct cultural points in American history.
The exhibition begins outside where the centerpiece is without a doubt the bright red 1973 Citroën DS 23 Sedan. Of all the cars in MoMA’s collection, this one looks the most naturally fit. It happens to compliment several sculptures by Calder also in the garden for a special show of his work.
Spanning the lobby and a 3rd floor gallery, Automania includes more cars, an Airstream trailer, paintings, drawings, sculpture, video and advertising. Difficult to miss is the 1990 Ferrari 641 Formula 1 race car formerly campaigned by Alain Prost. It’s one of the more beautiful F1 cars of the modern era in its purity of shape. The more you study it, the more you see how nice the proportions are from just about every angle.
Housed in the upper gallery is the E-Type Jag, a VW Beetle and the 1946 Pininfarina (Battista “Pinin” Farina). Cisitalia 202 GT Car. The Battista in particular is a car you don’t see every day. The body is nearly devoid of panel gaps showing the difference between coach building and today’s mass assembled cars.
Thanks to MoMA for putting an exhibition together to get automotive and design lovers in the door to do what we love, look at cars. Here’s hoping the show inspires them to increase their collection and follow up with Automania 2.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter