The New York Times
November 27, 2020
November 27, 2020
Of the myriad treasures that might draw a sightseeing car lover to Detroit, one potential attraction is notably missing: a major public museum collection dedicated to the automobile. America’s Motor City offers many compelling reasons for a visit, but it really has nothing like the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the LeMay in Tacoma, Wash., or the well-known car displays in Reno, Indianapolis or Philadelphia.
A measure of relief from that drought has arrived in the form of “Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950–2020,” an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts that opened this month and runs through next June. A dozen autos, including production models and conceptual show cars, will be displayed alongside drawings and photographs from the design studios where the vehicles took shape. Paintings and sculptures intended to illuminate the relationship of art and car culture over the past 70 years will also be on display.
Despite the location of its stately Beaux-Arts home on Woodward Avenue, a major artery of all things automotive in Detroit, the D.I.A. is not a vault of local industry. The last major exhibition of cars within the museum’s walls was a design retrospective in the 1980s that spanned the era from 1925 to 1950.
The exhibition was originally to open as part of a larger celebration of the city’s bootstrap revival, timed to complement the shift of the 2020 North American International Auto Show from its bleak January calendar slot to the more agreeable weather of June. That plan was scuttled when the coronavirus pandemic took hold and the city’s main convention center was converted into a field hospital. The auto show has since been rescheduled for early fall 2021, which will make outdoor displays and activities feasible.
The cars in the “Detroit Style” show include both models once commonplace on suburban streets — a 1967 Ford Mustang and a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda among them — and design studies produced by Detroit automakers as trial balloons, created to focus-group proposed trends at public auto shows. The studies include icons like the 1951 Le Sabre from General Motors and the 1987 Lamborghini Portofino by Chrysler’s studio. The cars were chosen by an advisory committee that represented the College for Creative Studies design school, the Henry Ford museum and Detroit automakers.