When I first went to LACMA in my junior year, the Petersen Automotive Museum, located right opposite LACMA, was still under renovation and I had no idea what that was. It wasn't until April this year that, coincidentally, a friend of mine invited me to join him for a museum visit. Needless to say, it came as a great surprise that the museum in question was the Petersen Automotive Museum. Having undergone a $90 million renovation in 2015 with its exterior designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, one of the largest architectural firms in the world, and interior designed by The Scenic Route, the building itself proved to a masterful piece of art.
|Petersen Automotive Museum|
The Museum has a total of three floors excluding the basement level in which it keeps about half of it collection. Unfortunately, the collection at the basement level is not usually for public exhibition. The ground floor of the Museum showcases a wide variety of extravagant historical automobiles that are refurbished for exhibition. When I first stepped into the building, the 1925 Royce Royce Phantom immediately caught my attention. The Phantom 1 series were introduced in 1925, and it came with a Hooper Cabriolet body, with is most distinctively identified by its squarish body. However, the Phantom 1 on display at Petersen has undergone extensive makeovers from time to time, with it curvy structure and well-polished surface evoking a modern sense of beauty. Such handicraft further attests to advances in manufacturing technology, in which precision in manufacturing has improved leaps and bounds compared to the past.
|Rolls Royce Phantom on display|
The second floor, on the other hand, focuses on industrial engineering in which cars are manufactured for design and performance. In particular, one is introduced to different steps in the manufacturing of the car, and these see-through displays (such as the following) provide visual aids for better understanding of the car's interior.
Lastly, the third floor focuses on the history of automobiles, with particular emphasis on the local car culture. In addition, several notable cars that appeared in movies are in this section of the museum, including Batman's infamous Batmobile and the Aston Martin DB5 from the James Bond film: Skyfall.
|Aston Martin from Skyfall|
An obvious point to note from these displays is that car designs have vastly changed from the past to present. In the past, cars in general were squarish in appearance, including luxury brands like Royce Rolls, with its squarish Hooper Cabriolet body. Yet as we move from the 30s to the 50s, car manufacturers gradually incorporate curves into their designs, giving them a 'roundish' appearance, such as the yellow car in the photo above. Modern cars, on the other hand, rarely have sharp edges, and squarish designs have mostly become obsolete in modern designs. This is not so much a matter of the changing perspective of what constitutes beauty between the past and present, but is more associated with technological advances that drive the evolution of cars. The metalworking techniques in the past simply could not economically produce parts in the precision and quantity required. Such changes thereby highlight the importance of technology in art, since the lack of the former places severely restrictions in which forms art may take. Mathematical principles are also increasingly employed in car production and designs. The front design of the Aston Martin, for example, conforms to the shape of an ellipse, whereas there are no geometrical structures that cars in the past (such as the yellow car) correspond to.
Far from the polarization of the two cultures that CP Snow wrote in his famous essay, synergy between art, science, and technology is evident in the production and design of cars. I would definitely recommend this exhibition to the rest of my peers, as it was indeed an eye-opening experience for me to learn about the history and development of cars. Lastly, let me end my post with a photo of myself at the event :D
"Petersen Automotive Museum" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, n.d. Web. 3 May. 2016.
"Petersen Automotive Museum gets $100 million gift from founders" Mark Vaughn. Autoweek. 25 Apr. 2011. Web. 3 May 2016.