A Different Look at Cars
It would be hard to accuse the High's decorative arts and design curator, Ron Labaco, of being stodgy or predictable.
He spearheaded an initiative for the museum to acquire a round-back chair and table from Front Design's innovative Sketch Furniture series, and he is one of the creative minds behind the High's current head-turning exhibition, The Allure of the Automobile, on view through June 20, 2010.
An unorthodox concept, at least in museum circles, the idea is that the stylistic development of cars can be looked at in the context of major design movements like Art Moderne and Post-war Modernism.
It doesn't hurt that the show has glamour to spare. Included among the 18 rarest-of-the-rare specimens is the 1957 Jaguar XKSS Roadster once owned by Steve McQueen and a 1935 Duesenberg given by Carole Lombard to her husband Clark Gable. But I think the High has done a great job using the cars as jumping off points for subtle 20th century history lessons, encompassing The Great Depression, World War II, economics, engineering and the luxury goods industry. For me the most interesting aspect might be the contrast between European and American design. (I was also intrigued by the tartan interior of a silver 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR.)
So think about the show for Father's Day or an afternoon date. It appeals to a cross-section of people. In celebration of the exhibition, a screening of Bullitt starring McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset is scheduled to take place at the Woodruff Arts Center, Friday May 21 at 8 p.m.
All books shown above are available at the High gift shop. Click here to watch the YouTube video with Labaco.
And a footnote: Whenever I leave the High, I like to sneak a peek across the street at the 1920s Reid House designed by famed architect Neel Reid.