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Sensuous Steel

Art Deco Automobiles at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts

Andy Bolig - February 08, 2013 03:49 PM

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Delahaye 135M Figoni and Falaschi Competition Coupe, 1936. Collection of James Patterson. Photograph © 2012 Peter Harholdt

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Cord L-29 Cabriolet, 1929. Collection of Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. Photograph © 2012 Peter Harholdt

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The classic cars of the Art Deco age remain today as among the most visually exciting, iconic and refined designs of the twentieth century

This summer, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts will present Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles, an exhibition of unique and luxurious autos from the 1930s and ’40s.

Sensuous Steel includes 18 automobiles and three motorcycles drawn from some of the most renowned car collectors and collections in the automotive world. Organized by Guest Curator Ken Gross, former Petersen Automotive Museum director, the exhibition will be on view in the Center’s Ingram Gallery from June 14 through September 15, 2013.
 
While today automotive manufacturers often strive for economy and efficiency, there was a time when elegance reigned.  Like the Frist Center’s historic building, the automobiles included in Sensuous Steel display the classic grace and modern luxury of Art Deco design. An eclectic, machine-inspired decorative style that thrived between the two World Wars, Art Deco combined craft motifs with industrial materials and lavish embellishments. The movement began in Paris in the early 1920s and was propelled to prominence in 1927 with the success of the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. Automakers embraced the sleek iconography of motion and aircraft-inspired materials connotative of Art Deco, creating memorable automobiles that still thrill all who see them.

“Sensuous Steel is the first major museum auto exhibition devoted entirely to Art Deco automobiles, and there could be no more fitting a venue than the Frist Center’s landmark historic Art Deco building, which was completed in 1934,” notes Frist Center Executive Director Dr. Susan H. Edwards. “Art Deco styling influenced everything from architecture to sleek passenger trains and luxury liners, furniture, appliances, jewelry, objets d’art, signage, fashionable clothing and, of course, automobiles. The works in this exhibition convey the breadth, diversity, and stunning artistry of cars designed in the Art Deco style.”
 
“Rapidly changing and ever-evolving, the automobile became the perfect metal canvas upon which industrial designers expressed the vital spirit of the interwar period,” explains Guest Curator Ken Gross. “To give the illusion of dramatic movement and forward thrust, cars of the 1930s and ’40s merged gentle curves with angular edges. These automobiles were made from the finest materials and sported beautifully crafted ornamentation, geometric grillwork, and the elegant miniature statuary of hood ornaments.
 
“The classic cars of the Art Deco age remain today as among the most visually exciting, iconic and refined designs of the twentieth century,” Mr. Gross continues.

Among the automobiles included in Sensuous Steel are:

•         1929 Cord L-29 Cabriolet- Designed by Alan Leamy who is known for styling the famed Auburn Speedster, the Cord L-29 Cabriolet was the first U.S. front-drive luxury car. It was painted its notable burnt orange color by its former owner, Frank Lloyd Wright.
 
•         1937 Delahaye 135 MS Roadster by Figoni and Falaschi- Created for the 1937 Paris Auto Show, this car was called “a Paris gown on wheels.” The roadster features aluminum coachwork and a leather interior by Hermès. Most significant are four features that were patented by Figoni and Falaschi, which included a roll-down disappearing windshield.
 
•         1934 Edsel Ford Model 40 Speedster- Designed by E.T. “Bob” Gregorie specifically for Edsel B. Ford, the speedster features a two-seater aluminum alloy body patterned after an Indy race car. It is the only one of its kind ever made.
 
•         1934 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow Sedan- Designed by Phillip Wright, the Arrow Sedan was originally built for the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition (1933-34). This car was the epitome of luxury with a price tag of $10,000 (roughly $170,000 today). Only five of these sedans were made, with three of them surviving to this day.
 
•         1935 Stout Scarab- Bill Stout, an aircraft engineer who developed the Ford Tri-Motor aircraft, began creating a radical sedan concept in the early 1930s. The end result, the Scarab, featured a roomy interior that boasted moveable seats and a small table. This unique auto anticipated the first minivan.
 
The exhibition will be accompanied by two audio tours, one for adults and one for children. 
 

Ticket Information
                
Admission to Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles is free for Frist Center members and $10.00 for adults. Visitors 18 and younger are admitted free of charge. Advance tickets can be purchased on site at the Frist Center beginning April 1, 2013. Beginning April 1, Frist Center members may reserve tickets by calling the Frist Center Member Hotline at 615.744.3248.
 
To accommodate out-of-town visitors, a limited number of non-member advance tickets for each day of the exhibition will be available online starting April 1, 2013 through NowPlayingNashville.com, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
Each order carries a $1.50 convenience charge that benefits the Community Foundation. Purchasers will download a voucher from NowPlayingNashville.com that will be redeemable at the Frist Center for exhibition admission on the specific date for which the voucher has been bought. Tickets purchased through NowPlayingNashville.com are non-refundable.
 
During the run of Sensuous Steel, Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum and the Frist Center will offer reciprocal admission discounts when ticket stubs are presented. Each ticket stub from the Lane Motor Museum is good for one half-price admission at the Frist, and each Frist Center ticket stub can be used at the Lane Motor Museum to receive a discount on a single ticket. The Lane Motor Museum is located at 702 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville. Learn more at http://lanemotormuseum.org/
 
 
Sensuous Steel Hotel & Ticket Packages
 
Uniqueall-inclusive travel packages to see Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles will be available through the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. website. (www.visitmusiccity.com)  In addition to lodging and admission to Sensuous Steel, packages also include tickets to Nashville’s famed Lane Motor Museum, and more.  For information and to book your package, go to www.visitmusiccity.com/sensuoussteel.  
 
 
Exhibition Sponsors
 
Lead Sponsors: Barbara, Jack, Sara, and Richard Bovender
 
Platinum Sponsor: The HCA Foundation on behalf of HCA and the TriStar Family of Hospitals
 
Media Sponsor: SportsCarDigest.com
 
Hospitality Sponsor: Union Station Hotel
 
Member Preview Sponsor: Chubb Insurance
 
Thank you to Belmont University and Ocean Way Recording Studios who are donating recording time and professional expertise for the production of the audio tour. 
 
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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