Whether they’re being used as a canvas themselves or making their way onto actual canvas, cars have often historically been the inspiration for pieces of art. Here are just a few of the many examples throughout history of famous artwork featuring cars.
Cars, Andy Warhol
Though he never learned to drive himself, artist Andy Warhol always had a fascination with cars. So when Mercedes-Benz commissioned Warhol in 1986 to create a series of paintings, drawings, and silkscreens themed around the evolution of cars, it’s no surprise that Warhol took up the challenge. Warhol completed 49 out of the 80 originally planned pop art pieces in his lifetime. The pieces were largely reproduced from photographs while still displaying Warhol’s signature style. The “Cars” series has only been exhibited a few times to the public since Warhol’s death in 1987, and it’s only been shown in full in 1988, 2010, and 2014.
Trabi, Birgit Kinder
A public mural painted on a remaining section of the Berlin Wall in 1990, the painting “Trabi” depicts a Trabant breaking through the Berlin Wall as a symbol of a literal drive toward unification. Now one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the East Side Gallery, the car painting also comments on the production means as the Trabant is exclusively produced in East Germany.
Clothed Automobiles, Salvador Dali
Clothed Automobiles is just one of many paintings Salvador Dali painted portraying cars. Similar to Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali also rarely drove but had a fascination with cars and chose to include them in several of his paintings, installation pieces, and collages. Cadillacs are displayed dressed in fine fabrics in Dali’s “Clothed Automobiles” collages. In his “Rainy Taxi” piece, he posed two mannequins in a car with snails, lettuce, and chicory while a series of pipes made it rain inside the vehicle. Used as a symbol of modernization throughout his artwork, the car also included a full-sized bronze statue in place of a hood ornament.
Concrete Traffic, Wolf Vostell
The “Concrete Traffic” piece by Wolf Vostell involved the complex process of entirely encasing a Cadillac in concrete. The piece was commissioned by the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art in 1970 and was originally assembled in a public parking lot. The piece uses concrete as a symbol of traffic congestion and allowed artists to explore the use of a material that isn’t often utilized in artistic practices. “Concrete Traffic” was later donated to the University of Chicago and the public sculpture remains a staple of the University’s garage.