Art isn’t just a sculpture or oils on a canvas or something to simply be admired in a gallery. Sometimes art can have fenders, headlights and seatbelts.
That’s the philosophy behind Saturday’s aptly titled “Cars Are Art” show at the Tyler Museum of Art. Cars of all makes, models and vintages will be on display, but unlike most car shows, the focus will be entirely on the aesthetics so don’t go expecting to see a lot of popped hoods or revving engines.
“(This show) is about the design and the artistry of the car,” said TMA Executive Director Chris Leahy. “I think we’re going to bring in people that don’t normally come to the museum. This is part of our effort to reach out to people that don’t normally think of us as a place where they can see beautiful works of art that they really appreciate.”
One such car will be a 2006 Maserati GranSport, owned by Byron Meads, a local financial advisor. One of the defining qualities of any piece of art is uniqueness and rarity. And this blazing red (“Arrest me red” he calls it) Italian sports car is one of only 50 that were ever made during its brief production run from 2004 to 2007.
“If you look at this car, and a lot of other Italian sports cars, I can’t find a straight line on that car. Everything is a gradual curve or bend or nook, and it looks fast while it’s sitting still,” Meads said. “I think the design is one that is timeless in that it looks just as good now as the day it was made. And I think it will look good ten years from now.”
Meads described the design of the car as timeless, and said that some of its uniqueness comes from the personal care and attention that went into its construction.
“This car is hand-built. They only make 17 cars a day. And of this model, they only made two a day. So, it’s something that is unique and that you’re not going to see a lot of,” he said.
The result is a vehicle that feels special both at rest and on the road.
“I feel like I’m riding in a piece of art,” he said. “It doesn’t have any creature comforts. It doesn’t have a cup holder. It doesn’t have a cigarette lighter. It does have a glove box, but everything else is made for enjoying a high-performance car on regular roads. The only problem is keeping it under the speed limit.”
Some may bemoan the lack of certain amenities, but Meads said driving a Maserati is meant to be an experience shared between car and driver, with the driver’s focus solely on the sensation of what the vehicle can do.
“The car is not meant to be driven with one hand,” Meads said. “If you’re driving it the way it is supposed to be driven, you’re driving it in manual mode and you have your paddle shifters, it’s a Formula 1 transmission. You have your paddle shifters right behind the wheel and you need both hands to do that, so it’s like you’ll not be reaching over to get a cup of coffee.”
Color is a crucial factor when it comes to a car, and especially an Italian sports car. Certain colors simply embody their spirit well. How often do you see a green Ferrari, after all?
“It’s interesting how the different makers will market a color as their color,” Meads said. “The Ferrari is red, everybody knows that. The Maserati is blue. Lamborghini is often a yellow. Land Rover is a hunter green. They try to brand by the color and I chose to depart from the blue and go with the red.”
Meads said it was actually intimidating seeing his car being unloaded and then driving it out for the first time.
“Because you knew that it was something very unique. It’s not like driving a regular vehicle, simply because it’s loud and rough and it’s powerful. It’s easy for it to get out from under you,” he said.
Like any true piece of art, Meads said there are subtleties and details to the GranSport’s design that he’s still picking up on after having first bought it, details he says he couldn’t have picked up on until he had spent time with it.
“The piping in the leather in the dashboard with its contrasting color. In the side of the car, it flares out at the bottom for aerodynamics and you really don’t notice that until you’re getting in and out of the car,” he said. “I like the front of the car, the way it’s almost like a face. It’s not happy, it’s aggressive.”
Meads said he applauds the Tyler Museum of Art for its efforts with this event in its attempt at widening audience awareness.
“I hope this draws more people to the museum,” he said. “(They are) looking at innovative ways to demonstrate art and craftsmanship.”
“Cars Are Art” will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 per person for adults, children age 12 and under get in free. Concessions will be available all day, with a “Blue Plate Special” dinner offered for $25 per person beginning at 5:30. The menu includes homestyle pot roast, hash-brown casserole, green beans, yeast rolls, dessert, and beer and wine, all served on a blue plate.
For more information, call the museum at 903-595-1001 or visitwww.tylermuseum.org .