Title: 10 - 1957 GM Concept Car
Medium/Date: Ink, colored and graphite pencils, and opaque watercolor on paper
Size: 13.5 x 16.5 inches 34.2 x 41.9 cm
Signed: Signed and dated
Provenance: Exhibited: The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Great Age of American Automobiles: MFA, Boston, 2005
Future Retro: Drawings from the Great Age of American Automobiles
April 21, 2005 - Monday, July 18, 2005; Toyota Museum and the Nagoya Museum, Japan, Sept
Illustrated: Illustrated: Retro: Drawings From the Great Age of American Automobiles: MFA, Boston, 2005 Publications
Frame: Custom designed frame
WHILE elegant prewar classics and rare Italian sports cars are still setting sales records when they cross the auction block, lately it has been automakers' dream cars from the 1950's that are drawing top prices from high-rolling car collectors.
At recent auctions, bidding wars over futuristic prototypes have turned concept cars like the Oldsmobile F-88 and the Pontiac Bonneville Special — stars of the auto show circuit half a century ago — into multimillion-dollar trophies for a few prosperous individuals.
But other collectors are becoming intrigued by the two-dimensional equivalents of those fantasy cars. An exhibit of the dreamy drawings of auto designers and advertising illustrators, "Drawing Power: Motor City Ad Art in the Age of Muscle and Chrome," runs through March 30 at the Skillman branch of the Detroit Public Library, which is home to the National Automotive History Collection.
Connoisseurs of automotive art are drawn both to visionary sketches from design studios — many of cars that never moved beyond the drawing board — and to paintings of production models made longer, wider and shinier for advertisements on the printed page. Last year, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles presented a small show on the topic, "Driving Through Futures Past: Mid-Century Automotive Concept Art and Models."
Curators of the Detroit show are Jared Rosenbaum and Rachel Mackow of the Palace of Culture, an online "museum" of futuristic design, and Mark Patrick of the Detroit Library. They reached into a rediscovered cache of images by Arthur Radebaugh, an advertising illustrator best known for dreaming up and painting fantastic vehicles — streamlined flying buses, hovering monorails and other wonders of the future — in advertisements for Bohn Aluminum & Brass. In the 1930's, Radebaugh turned out gleaming images of production-line Dodges and Chryslers set against Buck Rogers backgrounds.