'Automania' celebrates love affair with vehicles at MoMA

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- A long love affair with the automobile is celebrated in a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art called "Automania," in which classic cars rest side by side with works by artists who have found inspiration from travels along our highways.

I'm what's often called a "car guy," someone who loves classic cars, which is why I volunteered for this assignment.

The chance to get a guided tour is a big opportunity for me, and what eyeful I got.

The cars are seductive and sinuous, their curves so elegant that they are fit to be called "rolling sculptures."

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That's a term first coined at MoMA 70 years ago, when a red Cisitalia 202 GT was part of a pioneering 1951 exhibit called "8 Automobiles."

"To bring this object that was so familiar and so recognizable into the context of a museum really exploded people's expectation of what an art museum was meant to do," curator Andrew Gardner said.

Wandering through the museum's famed Sculpture Garden, I was struck by the fact the vehicles truly belong there. In fact, they are owned by MoMA and part of the institution's cast holdings of art, architecture, and design.

"I'm extremely delighted watching people walk into the gallery and just show their profound sense of joy every time they see these cars," Gardner said.

A Ferrari rests near a Picasso, while the beautiful -- a Jaguar XKE -- is alongside the practical -- a VW Beetle and WWII Jeep.

MoMA's Airstream travel trailer is both useful and pleasing to the eye, but much as we admire these vehicles, there's more than meets the eye.

"The display is also designed to make us think," Gardner said. "Because of course these alluring, extremely desirable objects also have had a profound impact on the environment."

The name of the exhibit reflects our obsession with cars, and "Automania" is also reflected in the art this fever has inspired, like Andy Warhol's "Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times."

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"Most of these artists are living in an environment shaped by the car," Gardner said. "So it's a ripe subject for artists who are interested in balancing this notion of celebration and critique."

Sure, this is worthy of contemplation and commentary, but let's not forget that "Automania" is also a whole lot of fun.

You can check it out all summer and fall, anytime through January 2, 2022.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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