Autos, Art Programs, Architecture
Dates: April 8 – September 18, 2022
Concept and Design by Norman Foster, curated with Lekha Hileman Waitoller and
Manuel Cirauqui of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and a team from the Norman Foster
Foundation and its collaborators.
Exhibition organized by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Norman Foster
Sponsored by Iberdrola and Volkswagen Group.
Collaborators: AIC-Automotive Intelligence Center in Future, Cadillac in Clay Modelling
Studio and Sennheiser in the immersive sound experience.
– Beginnings, Sculptures, Popularising, Sporting, Visionaries, Americana, and Future, are the thematic titles of the galleries that guide the chronological structure of the exhibition.
– Each gallery in this unique exhibition addresses a particular historical moment or theme in which the intersection of industrial design, art, and architecture are visible.
– Clay Modelling Studio, presented by Cadillac brings a replica of a clay modelling studio featuring the brand’s first all-electric vehicle LYRIQ, to illustrate both original and contemporary production techniques.
– For Future sixteen schools of design and architecture from around the globe consider today’s problems of urban congestion, resource scarcity, and pollution and present visions for the future of mobility by a new global generation of architects, designers and artists. This gallery has received the support of AIC-Automotive Intelligence Center.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Motion. Autos, Art, Architecture, sponsored by Iberdrola and Volkswagen Group. The exhibition celebrates the artistic dimension of the automobile and links it to the parallel worlds of painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, and film. Taking a holistic approach, the exhibition challenges the separate silos of these disciplines and explores how they are visually and culturally linked.
The exhibition considers the affinities between technology and art, showing for example how use of the wind tunnel helped to aerodynamically shape the automobile to go faster with more economic use of power. This streamlining revolution was echoed in works of the Futurist movement and by other artists of the period. It was also reflected in the industrial design of everything from household appliances to locomotives.
The exhibition brings together around forty automobiles – each the best of its kind in such terms as beauty, rarity, technical progress and a vision of the future. These are placed centre stage in the galleries and surrounded by significant works of art and architecture. Many of these have never before left their homes in private collections and public institutions, and as such, are being presented to a wider audience for the first time.
The exhibition is spread over ten spaces in the museum. Each of seven galleries is themed in a roughly chronological order. These start with Beginnings and continue as Sculptures, Popularising, Sporting, Visionaries and Americana and close with a gallery dedicated to what the future of mobility may hold.
Future shows the work of a younger generation of students from sixteen schools of design and architecture on four continents, who were invited by the Norman Foster Foundation to imagine what mobility might be at the end of the century, coinciding roughly with the 200th anniversary of the birth of the automobile.
The remaining four spaces comprise a corridor containing a timeline and immersive sound experience, a live clay-modelling studio and an area devoted to models.
Unlike any other single invention, the automobile has completely transformed the urban and rural landscape of our planet and in turn our lifestyle. We are on the edge of a new revolution of electric power, so this exhibition could be seen as a requiem for the last days of combustion.
A summary of each of these galleries and spaces is as follows.
TOUR THROUGH THE EXHIBITION
This gallery traces the birth of the automobile from the customised horseless carriage through to its mass- production – a process viewed within the concept of motion in the late 19th century using new technologies of photography and film. The automobile evolved from box-like angularity to sleek aerodynamic shapes, influenced by utilisation of the wind tunnel. This streamlined form was anticipated by the work of artists and architects in the first decades of the 20th century, and in the automobile, it became the very symbol of modernity.
In the beginning, the automobile rescued cities from the stench, disease and pollution caused by horse- drawn vehicles. In an era of climate change the automobile has now become the polluting urban villain.
However, battery power was also a dominant force from the earliest days of motoring. Included in the show is an example of the Porsche Phaeton of 1900 with electric motors embedded in the wheel hubs – a concept considered revolutionary when it drove NASA’s first buggy on the moon.
History has come full circle as we are on the edge of a new revolution with electric propulsion coupled with “mobility as a service” such as ride hailing and sharing, along with the prospect of self-driving vehicles.
The description of automobiles as “hollow rolling sculptures” was made by the late Arthur Drexler in the early 1950’s. That proposition is affirmed by juxtaposing four of the most beautiful automobiles of the twentieth century with sculptures by two of the greatest artists of the same period – the soft curves of Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure and the restlessly fluid motions of Alexander Calder’s monumental mobile 31st January.
Each of the automobiles stand as examples of technical excellence – two of them laid claim to being the fastest production vehicles on the road – but it is the beauty of their flowing lines that that are celebrated here.
Like great works of art, the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet Xenia and Pegaso Z-102 Cúpula hold rare value as limited editions for connoisseurs. Even the mass-produced Bentley R- Type Continental numbered only around 200 examples. In another link with the artist’s studio, the body shells of these automobiles were individually shaped by craftsmen, coaxing the metal by hand to create the compound curves.
The Atlantic, created by Jean Bugatti, was linked to a family immersed in the world of art and architecture over several generations. Here alongside the automobile is the sculpture Walking Panther by the uncle, artist Rembrandt Bugatti, each redolent of motion.
This gallery shows how attempts to produce a reliable and affordable modern “people’s car” marked the next step in the evolution of the automobile. The process started in the nineteen thirties with the deployment of national scale industries, often with political overtones. After the second World War, during a period of economic recovery and shortages, the automobile became a symbol of national pride and regeneration.
Post war austerity-imposed limitations of size, cost and availability of materials but did not inhibit the creativity of designers – on the contrary they were spurs to encourage innovation and ingenuity – to do more with less.
The art and fashion of the period fused with the mass appeal of mobility. For example, the Austin Mini and the mini skirt – Op Art and the logo by Victor Vasarely for Renault. Displayed automobiles like the Beetle and the VW Microbus are examples of how companies like Volkswagen have contributed to the democratization of the automobile.
During this period the proliferation of compact cars in Europe and their bigger relatives in the United States magnified the imprint of the automobile on the urban and rural landscape of both continents.
In the post war economic boom years of the1950s and 60s the technical demands of competitive racing – particularly Formula 1 – saw racing and road automotive design diverge further into separate design disciplines. The market for fast sports cars expanded and drew on the technology of their racing counterparts.
The five examples selected are each in their own way a delight to behold, quite aside from their racing pedigrees on roads and closed circuits. They merge art and fashion to satisfy the fantasy of speed and adventure – glamorous and desirable as objects of contemporary culture. The most emblematic examples became powerful images on the big screen, emulating the Hollywood stars in their degree of celebrity.
These automobiles were portrayed as cult objects by artists and designers such as Andy Warhol and Ken Adams. In his lifetime, Frank Lloyd Wright owned more than eighty cars – many of which are classics and are featured in this exhibition. His unbuilt project in 1925, for Gordon Strong, the “Automobile Objective” shown here, was the first use of a central spiralling ramp which would later be the central feature of his Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Visionaries starts in the mid-20th century when the stage was set for utopian vehicles, and artists and designers explored radical new forms on the themes of speed and motion. Many anticipated possibilities for the future of driving that were decades ahead of their time. Automobiles inspired by the desire to go ever faster pushed the limits of engine technology and aerodynamic forms, inspired by the new technologies of turbine, jet, nuclear, and automation.
This space celebrates a diverse range of visionary vehicles and their designers and contemplates the beauty of their fluid forms and aerodynamic achievements. These are exhibited alongside works from the Futurist Movement and its obsession with motion and speed, notably Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), with its bronze robes flowing as if in a wind tunnel.
There are visual affinities between the futurist paintings of Giacomo Balla and the one-off concept cars such as the three examples from General Motors—exhibited here together for the first time in Europe— from the nineteen-fifties. This period also saw depictions of driverless cars – a science fiction vision that is close to the reality of today. The utopian vison of automobile design is mirrored in the art and architecture of Eero Saarinen’s modernist masterpiece the General Motors Technical Center – described as an “industrial Versailles”.
Nowhere has felt the impact of the automobile as fully as the United States. It has shaped the American economy, landscape, urban and suburban spaces as well as popular culture to a degree unseen anywhere else. It was the first country to feel the benefits of mass ownership – and the first to have to confront the environmental consequences of an auto-based society, with its energy consuming commutes and social isolation.
The romance of the road, the transcontinental trip across the “big country” and its endless horizon, is emblematic of American culture with its enroute diners and filling stations. The storied road trip has been the subject of photographs, paintings, music, and literary tracts from the 1930’s new deal era through the present. Here, we can view through the camera lens of Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott, O. Winston Link, as well as the paintings of Ed Ruscha and Robert Indiana. As a backdrop to the automobiles, we can experience the precision of a sculpture by Donald Judd and compare it with the crushed relics of the automobile in a work by John Chamberlain.
The range of vehicles contrasts the extravagant tail fins of a giant luxury Sedan with a typical muscle car next to a flamboyantly pained hot-rod and the stripped-down utility of a wartime jeep.
The exhibition’s finale is devoted to works by a young generation of students who were invited to imagine what mobility may be like at the end of this century, which coincidentally marks the 200th Anniversary of the birth of the automobile. The exhibition’s journey comes full circle by considering the same problems that auto inventors faced more than a hundred years ago – urban congestion, resource scarcity, and pollution – all exaggerated by climate change and now projected onto the future.
Sixteen selected international schools of design and architecture from four continents were given complete freedom to share their visions for the future of mobility. The proposals on display in this gallery reflect collaborations between students and industry partners, designers, artists, architects, through a variety of models, films, renderings, drawings and manifestos.
This gallery has received the support of AIC-Automotive Intelligence Center.
Clay Modelling Studio
This mock-up of a section of an active studio shows the production of full-size clay models as part of the automotive design process and was pioneered during the 1930’s by Harley Earl, the legendary Chief of Design of General Motors. This important process cannot be replicated and persists today across the industry despite advances in computer technology and virtual reality. General Motors’ Cadillac brand has enabled a working replica of the clay modelling studio featuring LYRIQ EV to be a live element of the exhibition. There are parallels with the studios of artists – today and in the past.
This area shows that the cultural significance of the automobile extends beyond the vehicles themselves to encompass the world of models and toys. With the help of the Hans-Peter Porsche Traumwerk collection a selection of clockwork toys provides fascinating artefacts from an era that celebrated mechanical objects. These are complimented by scale replica model automobiles that exhibit the same artistry found in miniature paintings, figurines, or jewellery.
NORMAN FOSTER FOUNDATION
The Norman Foster Foundation promotes interdisciplinary thinking and research to help new generations of architects, designers and urbanists anticipate the future. The Foundation believes in the importance of connecting architecture, design, technology, and the arts to better serve society, and in the value of a holistic education that encourages experimentation through research and projects. The Norman Foster Foundation holds the Norman Foster Archive and Library, which provide a window into the larger narrative and history of our built environment. The Norman Foster Foundation is based in Madrid and operates globally. It has been recognised by the United Nations as a Centre of Excellence.
Norman Foster BIO
After graduating from Manchester University School of Architecture and City Planning in 1961, Norman Foster received a Henry Fellowship to Yale University, where he was a fellow of Jonathan Edwards College and gained a Master’s Degree in Architecture. In 1967 he established Foster Associates, which has since evolved into Foster + Partners, where he continues as Executive Chairman.
He became the 21st Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate in 1999 and was awarded the Praemium Imperiale Award for Architecture in Tokyo in 2002. In 2009, he became the 29th Laureate of the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts and was awarded the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1997, he was appointed by the Queen of the United Kingdom to the Order of Merit and in 1999 was honoured with a peerage, taking the title of Lord Foster of Thames Bank. He acts for the United Nations leading out their Forum of Mayors.
As part of the Didaktika project, the Museum designs educational spaces, online content and special activities that complement each exhibition, providing tools and resources to facilitate the appreciation of the works on display.
On this occasion, the corridor of the Didaktika leads from the Americana gallery to the Future gallery and contains an overview of the autos shown in the exhibition and they are displayed as minimalist silhouettes along a linear timeline. The evolution of the automobile is celebrated and brought to life in a sound experience conceptualised by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and developed in close collaboration with Ten Tenths and Sennheiser with AMBEO immersive sound technology. Selected automobiles from the exhibition have been recorded in motion and are driven acoustically up the length of the corridor.
Visit the Guggenheim Website here for more information
About The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao & Art program
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was the result of an extraordinary partnership between the Basque Institutions and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. More than a decade after its grand opening in October 1997, the Museum is a reality that has exceeded the most ambitious artistic and cultural expectations, and has contributed in an extraordinary way to the urban, economic, and social regeneration of the city of Bilbao and its surroundings.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is part of an international constellation of museums, which allows it to access an extensive Permanent Collection comprised from all the works in the Guggenheim collections, including the Bilbao holdings. These works complement one another and, together, offer an in-depth, expanded view of modern and contemporary art.
The Art Program is comprised from presentations from the Permanent Collection and a program of high quality special exhibitions, which offer our audiences a broad and dynamic panorama of the art of our time.
Designed by US architect Frank Gehry, the Museum building is a large sculpture made of titanium, limestone, and glass, and has become the most recognizable icon of the city of Bilbao. The exhibition galleries, some boasting surprising shapes, others with orthogonal configurations, are organized around a spectacular Atrium, crowned with a metallic flower over its skylight.
The complex and mutually enriching dialogue between the art exhibited and the architecture of the building, and the versatility of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao spaces favor a unique museum experience.