A model of a Delorean is in aged bronze, a full-size Porsche 911 sculpture uses blue calcite and quartz, a 1955 Speedster is stripped back to bare metal: welcome to the car art of New York-based Daniel Arsham in ‘Auto Motive’, an new exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Sand is another unusual component in these remarkable pieces which imagine the automotive age rediscovered as what the artist likes to call “fictional archaeology”. Arsham’s current obsession with car concept art follows ‘Future Relic’ a series of films depicting life on earth after ecological catastrophe. Here, that blue calcite eroded 2022 911 is re-imagined as an equally fictional archaeologist might find it, with the crystals literally still growing and exposed within the 911’s body. No detail is too small for this car art practitioner: from badging and dashboard to sculpted seating.
Popular culture looms large in this car arts show. A replica of a Ferrari 250 GT California - a real one was just too expensive - enlisted the help of the very props master who worked on ‘Ferris Beuller’s Day Off’ in which a red California is a prominent star. ‘Eroded Ferrari GT’ is a full-size model in haunting white, with equally haunting holes in the bodywork revealing selenite and quartz as if lengthy erosion has indeed taken place. Since this is a car art exhibition about the past seen from the future, a Delorean was naturally essential given its central role in the ‘Back to the Future’ films. Here, it’s a scale model in bronze, with deliberately accelerated patina to resemble a future several hundreds of years on.
Will petrol pumps be seen by archaeologists as weird relics from a strange time? Arsham’s eroded examples suggest exactly that. Daniel Arsham's choice of a 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster for a car art project is another deliberate cultural reference, since it was similar to a car James Dean owned before his fatal accident in a 550 Speedster. Arsham bought a poorly restored example: “I stripped away all of the paint in an acid wash, down to the bare metal, seeing the body shape in that natural form, seeing the filler that the factory in Germany used at that time.” All of its history is there in what is still fully running Speedster, restored using original parts, each exposing - rather than concealing - its age, so that this Porsche becomes a piece of archaeology all of its own. Seats are in a reclaimed denim, using a Japanese technique called boro. Simply put: the closer you look at this extraordinary car art show, the more that there is so see. You might not look at the family runabout in the same way again.