Last Saturday, Malcolm Pearson and I drove to Southern California to visit a car museum. What we found was a sacred site. Socal style. In an industrial park, of course, accross the street from a very big church.
It is the Mullin Automotive Museum, where, inside, surrounded by supplicants, is a shrine dedicated to the Art Deco Movement. Although there is furnature and sculpture; the main show is pre-WWII french cars. I read somewhere that the French Impressionists, especially Monet’s haystacks, came as a reaction to the ass-kicking the French took in the Franco-Prussian War. If that is true, maybe this flash of preposterous creativity in the period leading up to the second World War was in reaction to the growing colossus to the north. A sort of We have to be bold – and very French – now; we aren’t going to have another chance.
The cars are luscious to the point of being decadent.
If you only think of cars as transportation appliances, then these cars may not be for you. These cars are artifacts that reflect an age as well as self-conscience Art. Through the vision of one person. In my opinion, Art has to be the vision of one person; art by committee is not Art. That is why the UN building doesn’t work; why there are no great novels by two authors. And no great cars.
But, here, there is one great car after another with their names being the names of the people who designed the chassis: Delahayes – by Emile Delahaye – Lagos – by Anthony Lago – and, the most sacred of them all, Bugattis – by Le Patron himself, Ettori Bugatti. With bodies designed by Figoni et Falaschi, Chapron, Saoutchik, and Ettori’s son, Jean Bugatti. These cars were not always good transportation devices – although they often were – they were not, even, always good cars; but they were always interesting. Interesting in form and interesting in their lovingly done detail.
Notice the door handle buried in the chrome trim on this Delahaye with a body by Figoni et Falaschi. Or the way the headlights stick out ahead of the car on this one by the same team, and the subtle tailfin, and the detail on the wood door trim.
The engines are like jewelry (double click to blow up).
And just the general deco-ness of these beauties.
To be continued…