Since the first automobiles hit the road over a century ago, cars have left a lasting imprint on the design of our built environment. For both better and worse, they have fundamentally reshaped the ways in which we live, work, and enjoy ourselves. Cars have altered our ideas about mobility, connecting us across great distances at ever greater speeds. Automania takes an in-depth look at an object that has inspired countless examples of innovation, social transformation, and critical debate among designers and artists working in varied media.
This exhibition addresses the conflicted feelings—compulsion, fixation, desire, and rage—that developed in response to cars and car culture in the 20th century. Examining automobiles as both modern industrial products and style icons, it also explores their adverse impact on roads and streets, public health, and the planet’s ecosystems.
Automania brings together cars and car parts, architectural models, films, photographs, posters, paintings, and sculptures, ranging from Lily Reich’s 1930s designs for a tubular steel car seat to Andy Warhol’s Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times. Eight cars, including a recently restored Volkswagen Type 1 sedan (better known as the Beetle), will invite visitors to take an up-close view of the machines that architect Le Corbusier compared to ancient Greek temples and critic Roland Barthes likened to “the great Gothic cathedrals…the supreme creation of an era.”
Organized by Juliet Kinchin, Curator, Paul Galloway, Collection Specialist, and Andrew Gardner, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.