The Rich History of Automotive Art

May 28th, 2018 by

In honor of Spoleto Festival, we wanted to explore the rich history of automotive art. Spoleto brings renowned artists in the performing arts to Charleston for three weeks each spring. Historically, the automobile has performed on both the race track and the road, starred in movies, music, inspired both fine art and the fantastical and world-class photography. Arguably, some automobiles are so beautiful that they themselves are considered by many to be works of art.

The car as art. There are many articles and debates on the most beautiful cars ever designed, but nameplates like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alpha Romeo, Maserati are constants with a select Porsche, Corvette, Jaguar or Aston Martin making the grade.


Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

There are also those who choose to use their creative expression by customizing a vehicle. Janis Joplin chose custom psychedelic paint for her Porsche. The car did a tour at the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame and sold at auction for $1.7M.

Janis Joplin’s Porsche

But, art car can mean different things to different people. For 31 years, the Houston Art Car Parade has featured cars that are transformed into elaborate and eclectic rides ranging from high heel car to a shark

Beyond the automobile as art, it can be found as the subject of many varied art forms. Most of us are familiar with popular music and movies that have captured our imagination and culture. Cars have also inspired fine art painting and photography. founder, a place “where passion for cars and passion for art meet.” Founder, Marcel Haan said, “Automotive art expresses the emotion cars have on our lives.”

David Purvis

David Purvis,

Historic cars and automotive parts are also used to create both kitschy and clever furniture, home décor, clothing, accessories and more.

There seems to be no end to the range of artistic expression when it comes to the automobile. Although the automobile is not a traditional performing artist, it certainly has performed both on the road and off as a work of art.