The “Art of the Automobile” Auction
Many paintings and sculptures have fetched record prices in the recent weeks. It makes sense that the boutique and vintage car world be booming as well. At least that is the tactic of Sotheby’s and RM Auctions with their ambitiously titled “Art of the Automobile.” The sale is being billed as the first high-end car auction in New York City in more than a decade, and aims to raise the aesthetic regard for automotive design. This is different from museum showings of “rolling artwork” in that it has been conceived to attract buyers of fine art. Looks like these are the kind of people who wouldn’t even need a buy here pay here setup, it is probably just all out of pocket (that must be an awkwardly large wallet). The sale’s 32 cars and two motorcycles will be displayed in the same gallery space where a wealthy patron might otherwise inspect works by Warhol and Koons. Let’s get a closer look.
The “Art of the Automobile” auction is set for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Sotheby’s on York Avenue at 72nd Street. The vehicles themselves will be on view to the public in the 10th floor Manhattan galleries of Sotheby’s from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Without knowing the building, it kind of makes you wonder how they get the cars up there! “We applied the same criteria and principles that we use to evaluate works of art — line, proportion, design, originality and provenance — to these cars,” said Leslie Keno, Sotheby’s senior international specialist and a well-known face to fans of the “Antiques Roadshow” program on PBS. “That is why they belong in the space with the Picassos and Brancusis.”
Ian Kelleher, a car specialist at RM, said that the intention was to draw a wider set of art and design collectors. “We are looking at customers who appreciate the art of the automobile,” he said. This time around the emphasis is more on the art of the automobile, and Mr. Kelleher thinks it will test, “how much credibility is given to the car as an art form.” New York is one of the world’s centers for collector auctions of every category, but not automobiles. “There is a great deal of interest critically among collectors of modernist art and design here,” Benjamin Genocchio, editor in chief of Art + Auction magazine said. He believes that many collectors are ready to add cars to their interests. “This is the next step for those collectors,” he said. “There is a groundswell of interest in modern design. Many modern art collectors also collect modern design, especially midcentury modern furniture. All that started with cars. The shapes come from streamline and streamline comes from cars and trains.” With models like the 1912 Stutz Model A Bear Cat (estimated to bring in $800,000 to $1.2 million) and the 1933 Murphy-bodied Duesenberg ($2 million to $2.5 million), this is sure to be an event to remember, with an eclectic range of beautiful works of art… we mean automobiles!