Cars – Driven by Design – Exhibition

The Kunstpalast art museum in Düsseldorf/Germany has started something unique in the European art scene today. For the first time a complete special exhibition consists exclusively of automobiles. That they don’t show old rusty everyday cars should be clear. Instead, it’s about sports cars from the 1950s to the 1970s under the motto ‘Cars – driven by design’ or the German motto ‘PS: Ich liebe dich’ (Horsepower I love you). The curatorial duo Barbara Til, otherwise responsible four sculpture exhibitions in the Kunstpalast, and Dieter Castenow, car connoisseur and freelancer of the museum, indirectly connects with their well-chosen concept to the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) in New York, where as early as 1951 a special exhibition named ‘8 Automobiles’ showed special coachbuilt cars. In addition, there are vehicles such as a Jaguar E-Type or a Cisitalia 202 permanently in the exhibition.

In additions to museums and factories like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen’s AutoStadt in Wolfsburg/Germany and the Toyota Collection in Cologne/Germany, some private collectors were convinced to present their eyecandy to the public. And among the exhibited vehicles, true treasures are gathered. Dieter Castenow for example originally tried to organize a dark blue Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale, which failed. Coincidentally, he had lunch with well-known design professor Paolo Tumminelli and told him about his dilemma. Tumminelli spontaneously put out his mobile phone and the next thing Mr Castenow heard was: “Ciao Corrado, Paolo qui”, then a lot of Italian, from which only the city names New York and Tokyo stand out and finally after hanging up the statement: “Dieter, we have the car.” That the call partner was the famous car collector Corrado Lopresto and the promised car would be the factory prototype of the Giulietta Sprint Speciale was only a wild guess of Mr Castenow at this time. Something similar happened to him when he spoke with the owner of the exhibited Maserati 5000 GT and asked carefully, what other cars he might have in his collection: “I also own a BMW 507. But a special one.” It is the pre-series prototype with chassis number 70.003, which was once clothed by Albrecht Graf von Goertz as a test vehicle, after BMW’s own design for a V8 sports car failed to impress US importer Max Hoffman. This pre-production car differs in its design in some details from the later series.

On two floors, the exhibition presents a total of 28 beautiful sports cars. It all starts with a Cisitalia 202 SC from 1948 on the lower floor, where the show stretches once across the sports car world of the 50s with the typical, sensual round shapes. In the middle of the display the team doubled the ‘sports car of the century’. This title was given to the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing in the early 2000s. In addition to a silver copy without bumpers there is one of only 15 bordeaux red 300 SL ever built. Next to that there are the Porsche models 356 and 911 2.0, an AC Shelby Cobra 289 and a Jaguar E-Type.

Significantly rarer and, in the case of a sale, of course much more expensive are cars like a Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta, a Lancia Aurelia B24 S America Spider, an Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato or a Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder. All exhibits stand like sculptures on special pedestals and were skilfully put in the best light by the experienced team of the museum. In addition there are experience stations on the walls, which offer not only photos and videos but also audio impressions and interviews with designers and other people involved in the respective cars.

One floor up, two golden lions guard access to the exhibition area. However, these are not lions, but strictly speaking bulls of an automobile nature. Dieter Castenow has managed to get two copies of the Lamborghini Miura in golden paint for the exhibition. Like the Miura, the Lancia Stratos HF and the Lamborghini Countach a few steps ahead are designed by Marcello Gandini and make a nice entry into the sports car design of the 1960s and 70s, as more edges and aggression were incorporated into the styling of fast two-seaters.

These visual enhancements is also illustrated by the other exhibits, including, for example, a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’, a Toyota 2000 GT or a Facel-Vega Facel II. In the middle of the second floor Mrs Til and Mr Castenow positioned the two most famous German design studies of this era, the Mercedes-Benz C111 and the BMW Turbo.

Are you interested in visiting the exhibition ‘Cars – driven by design’ (PS: Ich liebe dich) at the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf? You have the opportunity until February 10, 2019. Adults pay 14 € entrance, concessions are 11 €, teenagers between 13 and 17 pay 2 € and children under 13 can enter the exhibition free of charge. For 3 € per person an audio guide can be taken. In addition, the Kunstpalast offers various guided tours.

Images: Matthias Kierse