Nov/Dec 2018 edition
Issue #1 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
In the field of automobilia, quality sculpture has always been desirable, and happily, we are living in something of a ‘golden age’ where beautiful works are available to suit a wide range of budgets and tastes. Regardless of materials used or limits of edition size, there is a marvelous variety of desirable new and vintage automobile-inspired sculpture currently available to enthusiasts, from incredibly rare to common place.
One of the challenges for the sculptor depicting an automobile-inspired subject is how to impart motion to a material more appropriate to a static pose, like Rodin’s ‘Thinker’. The noted artists J. Paul Nesse and Stanley Wanlass work extensively in bronze, creating large weighty pieces that despite their mass, present the viewer with an image of speed and grace; ribbons of dust fly up from the tires while the pilots wrestle to control the hurtling cars. Henk Kolk, a Dutch sculptor living in Germany works in a similar medium and method. In a way, the material used defies the nature of the automobile, that is to say light, agile, and responsive, but because of the artist’s mastery, it all works.
Sometimes, automobile sculptures can nearly equal a fine scale model in exquisite detail, while others are pared to the bare essentials of shape and form in order to reveal the spirit of the particular car, rather than its accurate representation. One renowned sculptor working in this ‘essential’ method is Emmanuel Zurini, who’s streamlined creations are very familiar to anyone who has participated in the famed Pebble Beach Concours, as miniature versions of his sculptures are presented as class awards. They are evocative as opposed to being descriptive, imparting a sense of style, speed, and elegance usually associated with the principles of Art Deco design.
Well known painter and sculptor Richard Pietruska’s creations embody the willingness to experiment with different materials and forms; bronze, fiberglass, stainless steel and cast resin all contribute to his fanciful and dynamic depictions, largely of storied racing cars of the past. Delicate detail is omitted entirely from the sculptures, permitting the essential form and fluidity of the body shape to take center stage. His works are striking, sensuous, and above all, quite beautiful.
A singular entity in the field of automobile sculpture has to be Francois Chevalier, who was actually a former Le Mans driver, as well as the manager of the Paul Ricard racing circuit in southern France for thirty years. Having no formal art training, Chevalier has amassed an impressive body of work, consisting largely of bronze sculptures of racing cars (what else?) and pen and wash drawings. They range in scale from desk top pieces to the full size Bugatti Type 35 that adorns the St. Devote Corner in Monaco. His artworks have engendered an enthusiastic world-wide following.
For sheer effort, skill, and mastery of material, Anthony Lauro stands quite alone in this crowded field. His sculptures are an incredible combination of wood, hand-beaten aluminum, and original automotive paint. They are constructed exactly as a classic sports car from the 50’s and 60’s would have been built. The finished sculpture reveals the hand-made wooden body buck to which the rough aluminum panels are affixed; they then metamorphose into a gorgeous, perfectly painted replica of the completed car. These large-scale creations are all one-off’s, requiring one thousand man-hours to complete, with prices reflecting their exclusivity and breathtaking quality. They are truly a visual and tactile joy to behold. His work ranges in price from $5,000 to $75,000 depending on complexity & scale.
In the realm of more affordable sculptures are pieces from companies like Compulsion Gallery, who produce pewter castings of classic racing cars that present very well in any collection or décor. All are open-ended editions (no limit). Sizes range from around a foot in length to the impressive Mercedes Streamliner which measures in at 28 inches and 23 pounds! This is one of their higher priced pieces at $1,200; other smaller-scale pieces from Compulsion run around $250. to $300. Their collector value is moderate, but they do pack a large visual punch.
To read more great columns like this one from automobilia expert John Lutsch...
John C. Lutsch is the owner of Aeromobilia.com, an internet-based purveyor of unique automobile and aviation-related art, models and rare treasures for the collector and enthusiast.