We Visited The V&A Museum’s Fascinating New ‘Cars: Accelerating the Modern World’ Exhibition—And We Loved It!
It’s not often London’s renowned V&A Museum dedicates space to any type of vehicle, but it’s just opened an entire exhibition called Cars: Accelerating the Modern World, which runs until 19 April 2020. We went along and were truly impressed—it’s not the usual obvious exhibits.
The idea of the exhibition is to look at the car as the driving force that accelerated the pace of the 20th century, and it includes the first production car in existence, an autonomous flying car, a low-rider, and a 1950s concept car. There are just 15 cars on display for they’re supplemented by 250 car-related objects, which make for fascinating viewing.
“The V&A’s mission is to champion the power of design to change the world, and no other design object has impacted the world more than the automobile. This exhibition is about the power of design to effect change, and the unintended consequences that have contributed to our current environmental situation,” says Brendan Cormier, curator.
The exhibition is divided into three main sections, starting with ‘Going Fast’, which explores the role of the automobile in imagining a future world of liberated movement and technological progress. It uses 20th century concept car designs, magazine illustrations and film from popular culture and science-fiction, along with the first-ever production car, the Benz Patent Motorwagen 3, introduced to the public in 1888.
The display also focusses on streamlining, showing the Tatra T77 but also showing how the technology influenced all areas of design, from cloche hats and radios to meat slicers.
The next section, ‘Making More’, investigates the origins of modern manufacturing, starting with a 1925 Ford Model-T but contrasting it with a custom-made 1922 Hispano-Suiza Type H6B. An exploration of General Motors’s early history shows how their Art and Colour Studio helped to turn cars from utilitarian machines into objects of desire, by releasing annual model upgrades and colour ranges, making old cars redundant and new cars more desirable. A specially-made film for the exhibition profiles five different subcultures, including South African spinners, California low-riders, Emirati dune racers and Japanese truck drivers.
The final section of the exhibition is ‘Shaping Space’, which explores the vast impact of the car on the world’s landscape, nations, and cities. It looks at how the petrol engine beat early electric and steam-powered competitors by promising the ability to travel the world, transforming drivers into individual explorers. It includes the geography of petrol extraction, how it was celebrated early on as a miracle resource through products like Tupperware and nylon, and how the 1970s oil crisis inspired a new environmental movement. There’s also the Ford Nucleon, a nuclear-powered concept car on display.
The exhibition ends with the Pop.Up Next autonomous flying car co-designed by Italdesign, Airbus and Audi, On display for the first time in the UK. Cars: Accelerating the Modern World runs until 19 April 2020. Tickets are £18 and members go free.
Images courtesy of the V&A