In the musty halls of Fine Art and the critics, gallery owners and collectors who
walk them, there can often be felt a barely disguised disdain for the art of the
Within the large population of Automotive Artists, especially in North America
and Britain, it has been difficult to find acceptance by the mainstream art
community. Perhaps many of the artists involved create illustrative portraits of
cars in styles that support auto racing fan merchandize more than what is
considered fine art. Some fit more easily into the areas of recreation, muscle
car, motor sport, NASCAR racing, or other thematic visual art. As such, these
gifted stylists and their work are considered commercial offshoots of these
areas. But there are many other automotive artists who's work stands equal
with any traditional fine art. The only thing that marks this art apart is its
subject matter -- one of the most ubiquitous and powerful icons of our society
-- the classic automobile.
Artists such as Andy Warhol, Don Jacot and Audrey Flack have been able to
immortalize common mass produced items of popular culture with resulting
critical success. Artist Robert Bechtle placed cars within the context of street
scenes reminiscent of family snapshots and as such, made a statement about
society that included the auto but moved beyond it. The automobile was
included in many of his paintings as an important piece of Americana.
There are many automotive artists, who like Robert Bechtle, have taken the
image further than an illustrative depiction of the car in its perfect 'still life'
state. These artists deserve to be recognized for crossing the line, as it were,
between niche art and fine art.
Paris based artist Malquito uses his website's virtual gallery to show his
automotive images hanging over a couch, as if to say "this too can hang in your
living room, not your rec room or garage." Artists Nicola Wood and David
Snyder portray classic cars in scenes rich with color and design, comparable to
any contemporary art today. John Salt's run down cars nestle amongst the rich
textures of urban strafed buildings. Margie Guyot's impressionist paintings just
happen to feature the automobile, a common item that would most likely not
have been removed from the painted scenes of Claude Monet or Pissarro, had
cars existed in their time.
The automobile as part of society is as viable a subject for art today as were
the religious symbols and icons in the 13th century or hunting scenes and
sailing ships in the 19th century. Art has historically catered to its clients; once
the church, later high society, monarchs and noblemen; today, the common
man. Auto buyers come from a wide socio-economic demographic which
marks cars from all eras as a cross section indicator of societal tastes. The
classic automobile has a viable right to commemoration as a major example of
historic style and design, arguably as much as the architecture of any era.
It has long been a central role of artists to articulate contemporary lifestyles
and express the effects of society and everyday surroundings upon the mind of
man. Our society enjoys a love-hate relationship with the car. The cars of the
50's and 60's represent perhaps the apex of North America's love affair with
the personal machine that gave both men and women equal access to freedom,
travel and the ability to expand their horizons. It is also the grand polluter of
our time and these behemoths of yesteryear the worst offenders. The classic
auto is strongly symbolic of the opposing emotions and attitudes of their eras
and the current era. And as such, it is a tremendously powerful subject for fine