Rolling Sculpture: Streamlined Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles


Rolling Sculpture: Streamlined Art Deco Automobiles and

Motorcycles at Vero Beach Museum of Art

On View: January 28 – April 30, 2023

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This Exhibition has been co-organized by the Vero Beach Museum of Art with guest curator Ken Gross.

The Vero Beach Museum of Art is pleased to announce the exhibition Rolling Sculpture: Streamlined Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles, an exclusive show created especially for the VBMA in winter 2023. Featuring 22 rare streamlined automobiles and motorcycles, opening January 28 through April 30, 2023, at the Museum.

The concept of streamlining has fascinated people for generations. Beginning in the 1930s and extending until the outbreak of World War II, automotive designers embraced the challenge of styling and building truly streamlined cars that were fast. They were encouraged by the confluence of aircraft design with the sleek shapes of fast railroad locomotives; new advanced highways such as the Autobahns; and events like the 1939 New York City World’s Fair, which showcased futuristic design.

Rolling Sculpture presents a select group of rare automobiles and motorcycles that demonstrate how auto designers translated the concept of aerodynamic efficiency into exciting machines that, in many cases, looked as though they were moving while at rest.

The Museum will display 20 cars and two motorcycles—the best of that era’s streamlined offerings—from Europe and the United States. Additionally, a selection of 16 hood ornaments will be on view.

Featured designers and engineers include European streamlining pioneer Paul Jaray, along with Hermann Ahrens, Gordon Buehrig, Jean Bugatti, Harley J. Earl, Joseph Figoni, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Norman Bel Geddes, Dr. Wunibald Kamm, Otto Kuhler, Hans Ledwinka Raymond Loewy, Georges Paulin, and others.

In contrast with the decades following World War II—when advanced aircraft and rocket designs propelled carmakers toward fanciful and impractical designs—the automobile designs in the pre-war period were more organic, emulating the classic teardrop shape thought, at that time, to be perfect for cheating the wind. The results were brought to life in cars with then-startling shapes that looked as though they were ready to be embraced and caressed. Even if they were not noticeably faster than their predecessors, they looked fast. In a few cases, the conservative public balked. Sales of well-known brands slipped, then recovered as consumers tentatively embraced and then accepted this brave new look.

The design influence of streamlining was felt far beyond automobile styling in this period. The school of architecture now known as “Streamline Moderne” affected the shape of radios, appliances, transport trucks, and railroad locomotives, along with such disparate items as table flatware, water pitchers, toasters, pencil sharpeners, and cocktail shakers.

A few of the automotive marques featured in Rolling Sculpture include Mercedes-Benz, who have restored one of the carmaker’s Stromlinienwagens (streamlined cars) from 1938, along with Bugatti, Voisin, Talbot-Lago, Delahaye, Cord, and Chrysler. In addition, Rolling Sculpture includes two motorcycles: a radically streamlined Henderson KJ and an Indian Model 441.The vehicles were shipped to Vero Beach from all over the U.S.

This Exhibition has been co-organized by the Vero Beach Museum of Art with guest curator Ken Gross. Gross has been an automotive journalist for over forty years and has curated several museum exhibitions across the United States, including “The Allure of the Automobile,” at the Portland Art Museum. He is the former director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and is based in Virginia.

Rolling Sculpture: Streamlined Automobiles and Motorcycles, is accompanied by a range of related programs and events, as well as a VBMA-produced catalogue, which is available for purchase in the Museum Store.

For more information and to register for programs, please visit the website and call (772) 231-0707 ext. 116.

The Vero Beach Museum of Art is located at 3001 Riverside Park Drive, Vero Beach, Florida 32963. Directions: From I-95 (Exit 147), from U.S.1, and Indian River Boulevard, take State Road 60 east over the Merrill Barber Bridge to beachside, turn right at first traffic light into Riverside Park.