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Speed: The Art of the Performance Automobile on view at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts
1952 “Beast III” Bonneville racer. Photo: Peter Harholdt.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT.- Art can move you. This exhibition will take you from 0-60 in under four seconds. Racing into town this summer, Speed: The Art of the Performance Automobile is on display at the University of Utah on the first-floor galleries of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in the Marcia and John Price Museum Building from June 2– September 16. The exhibition comprises 19 of the world’s finest automobiles and was organized by automotive historian, museum consultant and guest curator Ken Gross.

Speed showcases a century of automobiles that exemplify premier aerodynamics, engineering, art and design of their eras. The cars range from the menacing 1952 “Beast III” Bonneville racer (pictured above) to the ultra-cool 1957 Jaguar XK-SS Roadster, once owned by Steve McQueen. The cars are on loan from some of the country’s top automobile collections, including the Price Museum of Speed; National Automobile Museum; Petersen Automotive Museum; Bruce Meyer; Peter and Merle Mullin; Jon and Mary Shirley; and the Larry H. Miller Family.

“We are delighted to be presenting Speed: The Art of the Performance Automobile and are confident that our visitors will be amazed at the beauty, engineering, and amazing stories of these incredible cars,” says Gretchen Dietrich, executive director of the UMFA. “We hope many first time visitors will come to see the exhibition and be introduced to our wonderful museum and collection.”

A number of art museums in America and Europe recently presented popular exhibitions of cars, including Curves of Steel at the Phoenix Art Museum (2007), Allure of the Automobile at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (2010) and the Portland Art Museum (2011), as well as andL’Art de L’Automobile: Chef d’Oeuvres de la Collection Ralph Lauren at the Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris (2011). The first art exhibition of cars was Eight Automobiles, mounted sixty years ago at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (1951).

The UMFA’s automobile exhibition, however, is the first of its kind. Speed examines automobiles not only as works of art and design, but as objects of rich racing history. The featured cars were created by legendary engineers, distinguished designers, and storied automobile companies; many are speed record-setters that were owned and raced by famous drivers and other notable people of their time. This is the first and only time these 19 cars have been seen together in one venue.

Many of the cars in Speed: The Art of the Performance Automobile have a special connection to Utah’s famed Bonneville Salt Flats, where racers from all over the world traveled, and continue to travel, in attempts to break land speed records. The “Mormon Meteor III” is perhaps the most famous Bonneville racecar. Designed and driven by legendary racer and former Salt Lake City Mayor David Abbott “Ab” Jenkins (1883-1956), the “Mormon Meteor III” set more long distance land speed records than any other automobile in history, and it still holds 12 of them today.

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