From automobile to art

28 09 2009

Cisitalia type 202 sports berlinetta, 1947

Cisitalia 202_a

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__Expression, balance and contemporary are words usually associated with Art but for classic car enthusiasts the world over, the Cisitalia 202 is just that. A masterpiece in fact.

__The 202’s formal purity and perfectly balanced proportions proved to be a design milestone both for the industry as a whole and for its designer, Turin’s carrozzeria Pininfarina. It could be argued that this car was the prototype for what would become the quintessential Italian Gran Turismo, the precursor of future trends in automotive design, many of which remain valid.


__Each car’s aluminium skin was hand formed over wooden bucks in very limited numbers, only 170 examples were built from 1947-1952. The sensual forms of the car’s low, wide body hide relatively modest Fiat-based mechanical components, the cars iconic status not derived from performance but its aesthetic innovation, its design proving a revelation when unveiled.  Building on aerodynamic studies of the period and treating the body as one wholly integrated element rather than a series of components, its uninterrupted and flowing surfaces are completely devoid of decoration or ornament. The few details that are present on the car, such as the polished door handles and front air intake, are extremely refined and above all, functional.


__So advanced was the car that it was included in the MoMA’s, (Museum of Modern Art, New York), first exhibit on automobile design in 1951 entitled “Eight Automobiles”. Influential curator and director of the Moma’s Department of Architecture and Design, Arthur Drexler, famously defined the Cisitalia 202 as “rolling sculpture”. It was the first car to become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

__Drexler transmitted his thoughts and ideas through the exhibitions that he put together at the MoMA, his public appreciation of the 202 in particular ensuring it a place both in automotive and design history.

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