Automobiles are among the most conspicuous creations of industrial civilization. Visually, spatially, and culturally, they occupy as much attention in our lives as furniture, clothing, or electronics. The six automobiles in The Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection, including three new acquisitions, are innovative designs representing a range of purposes, such as speed, sport, and transport. Together, they span more than five decades of automotive design. Individually, the automobiles are recognized for their aesthetic excellence, functional capability, historical significance, practicality, or affordabilitycriteria applicable to the other mass-produced design objects in the Museum's collection.
Automotive design reflects not only a car's primary purpose but also the designer's ingenuity and intuitive styling. Since the invention of the automobile, speed has been one of the most captivating aspects of car design. Consequently, the designer's consideration of aerodynamics is a critical factor in the design process, often resulting in astonishingly beautiful and varied designs. But even when designers and engineers address the automobile's most pragmatic functionpersonal transportationspeed is no less a factor than the social and economic realities that have often called for small, affordable, and efficient vehicles.