Sensuous Steel – Art Deco Automobiles

Sensuous Steel – Art Deco Automobiles

Art, Creative, Design

This summer, while visiting Nashville, Tennessee, I was able to see the exhibit ‘Sensuous Steel – Art Deco Automobiles’ at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The Frist Center is housed in a former Post Office, built in 1934 in the Art Deco style. The interior of the old Post Office was incredible. We simply do not design buildings like this anymore! The attention to detail and craftsmanship were astounding.


Upon entering the special exhibit, I was mesmerized by the beauty of these vintage cars of the 1920’s and 1930’s. They were evocative, luxurious, and artistic. The Art Deco period was influenced by many social and artistic movements occurring simultaneously with the production of Art Deco works; including futurism and cubism. Additionally, Art Deco was also influenced by historic movements such as Arts and Crafts and Egyptian Art. As the brochure for this exhibits notes, “Art Deco design offered just the right balance between classical cohesion and machine age progressivism.” All this being said, you can’t help but marvel at the design thought put into these horses of steel.


One car that certainly caught attention, was this orange beauty. As I approached and read the plaque, I learned that this car was owned by Frank Lloyd Wright until his death. He didn’t care for the dark colors cars were painted at the time, and chose his own color – which he called “Taliesen Orange”. Frank Lloyd Wright was quite the character, and his car certainly stood out and supported his individualism.


“The automobiles and motorcycles in this exhibition link the style’s evolution to changes in cultural aspirations and attitudes over two tumultuous decades. Early Art Deco vehicles reflect the opulence of the Roaring Twenties. They were made with fine materials and sported beautiful accessories, from elegant grillework to the minature statuary of hood ornaments. During the 1930’s, designers devised a language of streamlining, employing dramatic angles and sweeping curves to create sinuous profiles that became synonymous with aerodynamic efficiency, surging power, and industrial progress” – quote from the exhibit brochure


It’s all about the details!


I adore these hood ornaments!

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The rear of this car looks like a whiskered cat with a mischievous grin!

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I don’t know how the drivers of some of these cars could possibly see over the hood!


The Phantom, one of the rarest and most expensive cars in the exhibit.

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A few parting photos of the original custom features of the Frist Center, including heavy steel tables and barrel shaped, glass light fixtures. I honestly believe good design can be found anywhere and will always be appreciated by those who take the time to really see and experience it!  -Kristi Barker