‘Art Deco Automobiles’ bring ‘Sensuous Steel’ to Frist Art Center

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

Cord L-29 Cabriolet, 1929, Collection of Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. (Photograph courtesy of Peter Harholdt)

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts presents ‘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.

“’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.”

While today’s 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.

“Rapidly changing and ever evolving, the automobile became the perfect metal canvas upon which industrial designers expressed the vital spirit of the interwar period,” said Guest Curator Ken Gross. “The classic cars of the Art Deco age remain today as among the most visually exciting, iconic and refined designs of the 20th century.”

Organized by the Frist Center with Guest Curator Gross, former Petersen Automotive Museum director, the exhibition will be on view in the Center’s Ingram Gallery from June 14 through September 15. Thursday, June 20 at noon, join Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala as he leads a tour linking Art Deco automotive design of the interwar periods to related aspects of architecture, fashion, and design.

‘Art Deco Automobiles’ is free for Frist Center members; $10 for adults; 18 and younger free. 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.