Christian Chironi | Morton St. Partners

FIAT 127 Special (Camaleonte)


The protagonist of Morton St, Partners exhibition, Manhattan Stop by Christian Chironi is a harlequin hued FIAT 127 Special. A seemingly indistinct choice for an art car if you’re going by BMW’s standards. The Italian artist Chironi however isn’t just painting up some body panels and calling it done with this project. The FIAT has served as a component for a years long performance piece that intertwines photography, collage, sound recording and architecture.

Each of Chironi’s drives in the FIAT 127 is based around architecture by Le Corbusier. For the project My House is a Le Corbusier he temporary resides in the homes designed by the former Swiss-French architect and creates work based of that experience. The project is rooted in the story of Corbusier friend and collaborator, artist Constantino Nivola. Corbusier designed a house for him which the builder constructed ignoring Corbusier’s plans.

Two decades later when Nivola was ill and near the end of his life, he asked his nephew to retrieve the remains of his studio along with his FIAT 127. He packed as much artwork as could fit and made the journey from Tuscany to Sardinia. Chironi has adopted a FIAT 127 for his own artistic journey. He travels the world accompanied by copilots and passengers from various backgrounds, all invited to play active roles in the work. The car’s interior becomes a shared space for recording stories that become a video diary rebroadcast inside while the car is on display.

So what about the multicolor paint scheme? Chironi develops unique color palettes for each drive complimentary to the Corbusier building he’s visiting. The FIAT 127 Special is called Camaleonte, Italian for chameleon. Many of the color explorations generated so far are part of the Color keyboard, a twelve panel series of color studies totaling 288 variations.

A final component of Chironi’s drives are the Car project collages. The base for these works are reproductions of drawings for Le Corbusier’s 1936 Voiture Minimum concept car used with permission from the estate. Chironi layers photography on to of his visits to regional Le Corbusier designed buildings with the Camaleonte included.

What I find interesting about this work is the redefining of a functional object into an artistic one. The art here is how Chironi relates the whole story together. The FIAT 127’s practical design combined with Chironi’s playful patchwork paint is a pretty spot on compliment to many Le Corbusier designed structures.

Photos and Text: Dave Pinter