Car Fetish. I drive, therefore I am. Museum Tinguely, Basel

In 1886, the German engineer Karl Benz was awarded the patent for his Motorwagen, generally acknowledged as the first modern automobile. On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the car, several art museums are dedicating exhibitions to the automobile. One of them is the Museum Tinguely that currently presents the exhibition Car Fetish. I drive, therefore I am. This comes as no surprise, because the artist Jean Tinguely was known for his passion for cars – especially race cars.

But Jean Tinguely was certainly not the only artist who is fascinated by the automobile. The exhibition Car Fetish unfolds the wide range of art influenced by the automobile. The show features more than 160 artworks by more than 80 artists. Among them: Arman, Giacomo Balla, Robert Frank, Jean Tinguely, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Roman Signer, Chris Burden, Damián Ortega, Richard Prince, Mel Ramos, Superflex, and Andrea Zittel.

Car Fetish, curated by Roland Wetzel, is architecturally conceived as a wheel with axis and radial segments that are dedicated to specific themes. The center is dominated by a Volkswagen Beetle exploded through the space, Damián Ortega’s large-scale work Cosmic Thing. On display are works such as Allan Kaprow’s 1961 installation Yard, made of towering stacks of tires; Andy Warhol’s Optical Car Crash (1962), Giacomo Balla’s Velocití  + luci (1913); Mel Ramos’ Kar Kween (1964); Arnold Odermatt’s photographies of car accidents; or Erwin Wurm’s Renault 25.

An important part of the exhibition are Jean Tinguely’s works. Tinguely hardly ever missed a Formula 1 race, and he was friends with famous racers such as Jo Siffert, Joakim Bonnier and Niki Lauda. As Nouveau Réaliste Tinguely had a great passion for speed and for the machine, but he also knew the deadly aspect of motor racing. On show is a piece for which he converted two racecar chassis into a winged altar, as well as his installation that combines Eva Aeppli’s Five Widows with a Lotus racecar.

The exhibition is complemeted by a side program such as a drive-in cinema that offers a program of feature film fitting the automotive theme including Bullit, Duel, Lost Highway, and Traffic. Car Fetish at Museum Tinguely in Basel runs until October 9, 2011.

Car Fetish. I drive, therefore I am. Museum Tinguely, Basel. Introduction by Roland Wetzel. Basel, Switzerland, June 7, 2011.

PS: See also: Andrew Bush: Vector Portraits / Interview.

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