BOSTON, MA.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) unveiled 16 classic European sports cars drawn from the personal collection of Ralph Lauren. Mr. Lauren is known to have one of the most exceptional collections of cars in the world, and the Museum has chosen some of his finest and rarest examples to be exhibited in Speed, Style, and Beauty: Cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection. On view through July 3, 2005, this exhibition showcases beautifully-designed European automobiles created between the 1930s and the 1990s, illustrating the evolution of car design to the present. The cars 15 of which are displayed in the Museums second floor Gund Gallery have never been exhibited together before and many have never been seen by the public. Additionally, a spectacular 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, is positioned in the Museums West Wing lobby. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum has produced a breathtaking publication with commentary from Ralph Lauren, the curator as well as automotive historians, and created a number of exciting programs including special Hoods Up evenings, when several of the cars equally stunning engines will be displayed.
Speed, Style, and Beauty: Cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection illustrates the sleek design and superior craftsmanship of such renowned automakers as Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Jaguar, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. The exhibition is cosponsored by Merrill Lynch. The media sponsor is CBS 4 and the print media sponsor is The Boston Phoenix.
These cars with their exquisite lines and innovative designs are works of art, and their designers are artists, said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. This spectacular exhibition will attract new visitors to the MFA, including families, car aficionados, and those who appreciate design, fashion and objects of great beauty.
Ralph Laurens keen sense of style and discerning eye have guided his passion in assembling one of the most important groups of vintage sports and touring cars in the world. From a voluptuous 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic Coupe described by one admirer as absolute perfection in automobile design to the bold and powerful 1996 McLaren F1, the cars on view in the exhibition have many sculptural qualities.
These automobiles are moving works of art, embodying a functional beauty that can be inspirational yet still purposeful, said Ralph Lauren. It is very exciting that the collection is on view in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts. I look forward to sharing these cars with MFA visitors.
The installation of Speed, Style, and Beauty features a completely open space of 10,000 square feet, dramatically set-off with white walls and black carpeting, accentuating the bold lines of these automobiles. Also included in the installation are three areas where recent and archival footage of these machines in motion are projected onto the gallery walls. This footage brings the cars to life, giving visitors the opportunity to hear the engine sounds and see them being driven, as well as archival footage of cars such as the 1933 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix in its earlier racing days.
Automobiles have been increasingly admired as art, as collectors and museums have come to recognize the remarkable craftsmanship of particular models. The decades straddling World War II were an especially fertile period for design, producing cars that were both elegant and innovative. Many of these cars were custom built for wealthy patrons, and only a handful of them were manufactured several of which are on view in this exhibition.
This is a unique opportunity to celebrate and admire examples of the finest automotive design of the past century, said Darcy Kuronen, curator of the exhibition. The automobiles in this exhibition were carefully crafted by skilled coachbuilders and the wealth of detail found in not only the shape of the bodies, but also the wheels, grills and even the gas caps, is extraordinary.
From the wealthy patrons who commissioned and raced the cars, to the coachbuilders that designed them, each automobile has an interesting past. Following are highlights of each car on display:
1929 Blower Bentley: The brutish Blower Bentley is one of the most thrilling Bentleys ever built. The car was designed by W.O. Bentley, but it was Sir Henry Birkin, one of the storied Bentley Boys a group of rich British gentlemen who drove fast cars and lived fast lives who pushed Bentley to include a supercharger, or the blower element. Almost tank-like, with its heavy body (weighing in at 4,300 pounds) and British flag decoration, the Blower Bentley was created for one purpose: to win races. It is not surprising that this was the automobile Ian Fleming chose for James Bond/007 in his early novels.
1930 Mercedes-Benz Count Trossi SSK: This rakish Mercedes-Benz was designed by its flamboyant owner, the aristocratic Italian racecar driver Count Carlo Felice Trossi. The car has a swept-back Art Nouveau style with a long hood enveloping more than half of its body.
1933 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix: Only eight of these models were ever built, and many consider it the prettiest racecar ever produced, with its grand style, virile body, long tapering tail and famous piano-wire wheels.
1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Gangloff Drop Head Coupe: There were only two models of this car ever built. This Bugatti, fashioned for wealthy buyers who were more interested in refined looks than high speeds, was introduced at the Paris Salon of 1933.
1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe: One of only three models ever built and only two left in existence, this fantastic car is almost sinister looking with its exposed seams and button-head rivets running down the spine and around the fenders of its body.
1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Mille Miglia: A fast car, the design accentuates its speed, with perfect symmetry in the sweep of the body panels, the teardrop-shaped fenders and tapering tail.
1950 Jaguar XK120 Alloy Roadster: Jaguar had only planned to make two hundred of the XK120 model, but the slinky roadster was an overnight success, especially with Hollywood movie stars like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The model in the exhibition is made of alloy and was one of only six alloy models ever built.
1954 Ferrari 375 Plus: Like all Ferraris of the time, there were no specific blueprints for this design. Highly skilled and talented metal workers created this beautifully rounded form by hand following the verbal instructions of renowned Ferrari coach designer, Pinin Farina.
1955 Jaguar XKD: No car from the 1950s better represents speed than Jaguar, with three consecutive wins between 1955 and 1957 at the prestigious French race, Le Mans. From the fin projecting from its tail to the smooth, rounded front, the look is like a fighter jet.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe: The stylish Gullwing ― named for its doors that open upward ― was sought after by numerous celebrities including Sophia Loren, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Glen Ford, and bandleader Skitch Henderson.
1955 Porsche 550 Spyder: The term Spyder is an Italian designation for a light, two-seater sports car. This model was fast and easy to drive; legendary actor James Dean was driving his brand-new 550 Spyder when he suffered his fatal crash.
1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa: This car bears the stamp of Sergio Scaglietti, one of Ferraris most talented coachbuilders. The Testa Rossa (Italian for red head), which derives its name from the red cylinder heads of its V12 engine, has the signature Scaglietti traits a long, torpedo-like body, tapered headrest and sleek covered headlights. This car i