date published: March 14, 2005

Art on Wheels
The Museum of Fine Arts revs up Speed, Style and Beauty: Cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection
by Scott Roberto

1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa © Michael Furman, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts Jaguars, Ferraris, Mercedes, oh my! Until now, no one has ever mistaken the galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts for the Bayside Expo Center, host to Boston’s annual World of Wheels auto show. But with the debut of Speed, Style and Beauty: Cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection, these local venues finally have something in common. You could say, however, that the cars at the MFA’s blockbuster exhibit are a step up from your typical car-show candidates—they’re 16 vintage European sports cars and touring vehicles owned by the famed fashion designer. Included are such breathtaking beauties as the rare 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe (pictured below)—one of only two of which still exist—and the striking 1930 Mercedes-Benz “Count Trossi” SSK (pictured on the cover), which Mr. Polo himself has likened to the Batmobile. Other highlights include the tank-like 1929 Blower Bentley, famed as the car driven by James Bond in Ian Fleming’s early 007 novels; the flashy 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa (pictured above) featured in the museum’s West Wing lobby; the iconic 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe; the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder (infamous for being the model James Dean was driving when he had his fatal accident); and the 1996 McLaren F1, the fastest production car ever built. Wall text and labels reveal the histories of the automakers and craftsmen who built each one. But are these wondrous machines art? The museum thinks so, equating the lines of these sleek vehicles to “the works of brilliant 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Altlantic Coupe © Michael Furman, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts sculptors.” Despite the naysayers, there have been several precedents for automobile art shows, not the least of which was the Museum of Modern Art’s groundbreaking 8 Automobiles exhibit, which dates all the way back to 1951. And the popularity of the nearly sold-out Hoods Up Evenings on the last Thursday of every month—when gearheads and art lovers alike can glimpse the engines that drive these fantastic rides—certainly indicates, art or not, the MFA’s latest exhibit has locals abuzz.

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