Opening Night of Art in Motion: Knowledge & Design with Talk by Richard Sutton
On Friday 5 May Richard Sutton, Curator of Art In Motion; Knowledge and Design, gave a talk celebrating the skills of the brilliant designers who were responsible for creating the finest cars of their eras. He described how each car in the new exhibition was chosen specifically to illustrate different types of construction, different approaches to design, and different ways to travel.
At a time when car design – not just its manufacture – has become digitised and ever more remote from the processes of making by hand, he said he felt that the exhibition was particularly appropriate at the 13th century barn of Messums Wiltshire. “Modern cars – particularly modern supercars – are often ugly and aggressive, designed more like weaponry than anything organic and ‘of the earth’”, he explained, comparing the latest Lamborghini with the beautiful 1966 Miura that is central to the exhibition.
The fact that the barn displayed cars made from sheet metal and hand-made round wooden formers by craftsmen of exceptional eye and skills going back to the age of the early coach builders, was very significant, he said.
He then showed an evocative film recently-made that demonstrated how we as children are influenced by our environments, our parents and teachers, and these ambitions seed the design styles of the future.
Moving on to a Jaguar XK120 parked outside the entrance that evening he explained how the XK, which appeared in 1948, just three years after the end of World War II, encapsulated a new curvaceous and fluidity of design, a completely new ‘look’ after the hard-edged armoured era of the War. He also showed how it compared with its immediate Pre-War predecessor, the 1938 SS Jaguar 100, designed by the same men; the change in shape mirroring the new zeitgeist.
“There have been literally thousands of car manufacturers since the Victorian times and there are a host of candidates for the most significant designs since the War, but each car in this exhibition represents the high-tide of if kind – a kind of perfection that no other model represents,” he explained.
Richard then told the story of each car chronologically, starting with the 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SS ‘low nose,’ the exclusive work of the legendary Italian designer Franco Scaglione.
Richard showed how the car had its routes in the realm of the aeronautical world and how it evolved from the fantastic creations shown in the mid 1950s at the famous craftsmen showcase that was the annual Turin Motor Show. “Italy is and always has been a nation of Leonardos,” he explained.
Richard paid particular attention to ‘ the big three’ designers from Italy, who between them also had three cars in the exhibition: the 1966 Lamborghini Miura (the first mid-engined production supercar), the 1968 Ferrari Daytona and the 1984 Ferrari 288 GTO. Giorgetto Guigiaro, Marcello Gandini and Leonardo Fioravanti, were responsible for more important cars from Italy during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s than any other group, and Richard explained their differences in approach.
He also touched on the philosophies of the various important British designers of the time including Sir William Lyons and Malcolm Sayer of Jaguar and John Tojiero and his associates who were responsible for so many iconic sports cars from the classic eras including three great British cars that are in the exhibition: the Jaguar E-type, the AC Cobra which competed with it, at least in performance terms, and the incredible McLaren F1, designed by Gordon Murray and styled by Peter Stevens.
The beautiful F1 on display is kindly loaned by McLaren Automotive and is soon to be supplemented by the company’s latest ultimate model, the P1. Mark Roberts, the Design Operations Manager and central to both the F1 and the P1’s deign processes, is due to talk at Messums Wiltshire on Friday 19 May at 7pm.