Mount Gallery to Open Exhibit on Golden Age of American Car Design
Opening in about two weeks, “When the Future had Fins: American Automotive Designs and Concepts, 1959-1973” is a Los Angeles gallery show curated by Christopher Mount, the man responsible for bringing the Jaguar E-type to the Museum of Modern Art. “When the Future had Fins” is a retrospective of a halcyonic fourteen-year period in American automotive design during which there was little foreign competition, no oil shortages, and boundless optimism.
Mount, trained as an art historian, divides his time between Los Angeles and New York City. Fortunately, we were able to get a few minutes with him to find out more. The show opens on Friday night, January 23rd.
Q: Are you a full time artist or designer?
A: No, I was trained as an art historian and my first job was in MoMA’s architecture and design department and that was what I wanted to do, become a design curator. I was there for 15 years and curated exhibitions devoted to everything from architecture to Finnish glass, automobiles and Russian Constructivist posters. Car related, I acquired a Jaguar E-type and a 1990 Ferrari F1 for the permanent collection and curated a show around them. This meant I spent a good deal of time at the factories in Coventry and Maranello which was a real hoot. The last show I curated was an exhibition devoted to future of the automobile in 1999. It included the first showing of the BMW Mini, Toyota Prius, GM EV1 and Honda Insight amongst others. It was remarkably prescient and dealt with many of the issues we are dealing with today.
Q: What led you to open your own gallery?
A: Museums have changed a lot and have seemingly lost interest in doing design and architecture exhibitions for the most part, particularly the small focused shows that I am able to do in my 2,400 sq-ft gallery. I am still curating, but in the end also trying to sell the work. There is no greater thrill for me than to have somebody come in and get really excited about something they have never seen or thought about before.
Q: What are your goals for the gallery?
A: My goal is to help define and establish a market for beautiful and culturally significant pieces of design and to get others as excited about this work as I am.
Q: What is your favorite subject?
A: I love all great design whether it is automobiles or chairs or modernist books. I am fascinated by how and why it works and particularly the beauty it evokes. When I was at MoMA and acquired the E-type, the head of the Painting and Sculpture Department Kirk Varnedoe said to me that he thought it was the most beautiful thing in the entire museum’s collection. That is something.
Q: How did your passion for vintage cars begin?
A: It happened at an early age; I used to draw pictures of cars as early as I can remember. In those days I loved the Lotus Europa and the Opel GT, and still do. My father liked cars too, and for a short time we actually shopped for a Jag E-type for the family.
Q: How does the creative process start for you?
A: It all depends, it can start with an interesting thing you see or a fact you learn and then you build out from there.
Q: Do you own or aspire to own a vintage car (and which one)?
A: Right now I am looking at Aston Martin Vantages and Ferrari 550 Maranellos–they are both wonderful looking and I think the height of a kind of “grown up” design. I also love anything by Pininfarina, but also love the classic Maseratis like the Bora and Merak.
Q: If you do, what is your favorite road and companion?
A: Just got back from a road trip through the Southwest and would have to say that the roads around Monument Valley, Utah, few cops and long straightaways with glimpses of the most remarkable scenery I have every seen. As for a favorite companion it’s my wife of course, and if there is a back seat, my seven-year-old son.
Q: As an artist, when you look at a car what do you see?
A: I see, as my former boss at MoMA, Arthur Drexler, said, “ A hollow rolling sculpture.”
Q: Do you have an all-time favorite car?
A: Right now it is the Toyota 2000GT, it is perfect in every way and rare enough that you don’t get tired of seeing it. I also like the idea of a Japanese-produced car that can rival the Italians in the looks department.
All of the sketches shown here and those on display at Mount Gallery are original, one-of-a-kind drawings produced by automotive designers working from 1959 through 1973. They are also available for purchase with a ten percent discount for Petrolisti, just make sure to mention Petrolicious when ordering. Check out the gallery’s site to get in touch. And be sure to check out the Mount Gallery if you’re in Los Angeles, CA; it’s located at 8687 Melrose Ave. W. Hollywood, CA 90069.