HomeCar CultureDream Cars at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Dream Cars at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Crowds swarm into art museum to see dream machines


What I saw as a problem turns out to be a wonderful thing for the folks who run Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, where the featured exhibition through September 7 is “Dream Cars: Innovative Design / Visionary Ideas.

My problem was that there were so many people eager to see the cars that comprise the heart of the exhibition that it was difficult to take photos without the people getting between me and each of the 17 vehicles.

You might think people hereabouts might have gotten their fill of automobiles as art four years ago when the High staged its “Allure of the Automobile: Driving in Style 1930-1965” exhibition with 18 classic cars, including a 1934 Packard and 1935 Duesenberg, each formerly owned by actor Clark Gable, a 1937 Bugatti Atalante coupe and a 1948 Tucker, among others.

“I wasn’t here when we had our last cars exhibition, but it brought in new audiences for us,” said Kris Delaney, the art museum’s director of marketing and communications. “A lot of those new faces became members and have become long-time members since then.

“As a result,” she added, “we are expecting this exhibition to bring in new audiences again, (including) people who have never been to a museum before.”

Pininfarina’s 1970 Ferrari 512 S Modulo (white) and Bertone’s 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero (orange) parked side-by-side
1955 Chrysler Ghia Streamline X ‘Gilda’
1956 Buick Centurian (red and white) and 1951 Le Sabre (gray)
Carl Renner painted a full-scale concept for a 1951 Cadillac convertible
Driver detail: Carl Renner’s 1951 Cadillac concept drawing

Like Delaney, Sarah Schleuning, the museum’s curator of decorative arts and design, is new to the staff since Allure and wanted this automotive display to focus on designers who were ahead of their time, propelling the automobile into its future with their concepts and dream cars.

In part, Delaney explained, the cars for this exhibition were chosen so that visitors departing from the museum might “look at art in a new way, will see art and design all around them.”

Some of those cars came from the design departments of major automakers, such as General Motors, which has four cars — the 1951 Le Sabre, 1953 Firebird I, 1956 Buick Centurion and 1959 Cadillac Cyclone — in this exhibition. Some came from exotic Italian styling studios, such as Bertone’s 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero, Pininfarinia’s 1970 Ferrari 512 S Modulo and Ghia’s 1955 Chrysler-based Streamline X “Gilda.”

Others were produced by automotive free thinkers, with the exhibit including Norman Timbs’ 1947 Special and aeronautics engineer William Bushnell Stout’s 1936 Scarab.

The museum also hopes that people coming to see the cars won’t leave the facility until they wander through the museum’s non-automotive art collection of paintings and sculptures and such.

“We’ve been growing and expanding our permanent collection,” Delaney said. “It’s something to behold.”

So are these cars, provided, of course, all the people coming to see them don’t get in your way.

(To see what people are tweeting about the exhibition, check out the #dreamcarsatl hashtag on Twitter.)

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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