Historic Concept Cars to Be Showcased at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

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Unique "dream cars" roll into the world's racing capital in May 2015.

Chrysler Thunderbolt, 1941. Designed by Ralph Roberts and Alex Tremulis. Courtesy of Roger Willbanks, Denver, Colorado. Photo by Michael Furman.

As ‘racing capital of the world,' Indianapolis is a natural fit for this exhibition.

A new type of motor spectacle is coming to Indianapolis next spring. Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas, a major exhibition featuring rare concept cars from the early 1930s to the 21st century, will open May 3, 2015 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Dream Cars showcases some of the most unique vehicles ever created by top names in the automotive field, including General Motors, Cadillac and Chrysler. Along with conceptual drawings and scale models, the exhibition explores the evolution of revolutionary automobile design that pushed the limits of the imagination and shaped the future of the industry.

“As ‘racing capital of the world,' Indianapolis is a natural fit for this exhibition,” said Dr. Charles L. Venable, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. “The IMA is recognized as a leading museum in the field of industrial design and we are thrilled to pay tribute to Indianapolis‘ rich automotive history by bringing these legendary vehicles to the city at exactly the time when all auto eyes are on us.”

General Motors coined the term “dream car” in 1953 as a reference to concept cars— experimental vehicles that challenged the status quo with their radical designs. As testing grounds for innovation, concept cars are a platform for automakers and independent designers to experiment with technology and explore cutting-edge styling and design aesthetics. Most concept cars are never intended for mass production, but instead are unique glimpses into the future possibilities of automotive design.

Dream Cars features American and European concept car designs dating back to the 1930’s. Exhibition highlights include:

  • Paul Arzens' L'Oeuf électrique (1942), an electric bubble car designed by Arzens for his personal use in Paris during the German occupation.
  • William Stout's Scarab (1936), the genesis of the contemporary minivan.
  • Ralph Roberts’ and Alex Tremulis’ Chrysler Thunderbolt (1941), touted by Chrysler as “The Car of the Future,” it was the first American car to feature an electrically operated retractable hardtop and disappearing headlamps.
  • Gordon Buehrig’s Tasco (1948), featuring a leather-coated driveshaft housing and unique T-top roof with removable panels.
  • Harley J. Earl’s, Robert F. “Bob” McLean’s and General Motors Styling Section staff’s Firebird I XP-21 (1953), the first gas turbine-powered automobile ever built and tested in the U.S.

“This is an exhibition unlike any other in the history of the IMA," Venable said. “Dream Cars challenges the idea of ‘art‘ by encouraging visitors to look at exceptional automobiles as rolling sculpture that evoke the possibilities for experimentation, innovation and beauty. These revolutionary designers were, like many great artists, pushing traditional limits and forging new visions of the future.”

The exhibition will feature a Car Design Studio where visitors can explore the process of automobile design through engaging, hands-on activities. An iPad app will also accompany the exhibit and include information about the cars’ hidden features and interiors, historic footage and interviews with leading automobile designers.

Dream Cars will be on display in the IMA‘s Allen Whitehill Clowes Special Exhibition Gallery through Aug. 23, 2015.

Exhibition Organization, Venues and Support
Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas is organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in conjunction with the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia. The exhibition is curated by Sarah Schleuning, curator of decorative arts and design at the High Museum of Art, in consultation with award-winning automotive writer and IMA guest curator, Ken Gross. The exhibition premiered at the High Museum of Art in May 2014.

This exhibition is supported by the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation. Interpretation materials and content were created with the support of an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

About the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Founded in 1883, the Indianapolis Museum of Art serves the creative interests of its communities by fostering exploration of arts, design and the natural environment. Encompassing 152 acres of gardens and grounds, the IMA is among the 10 oldest and 10 largest encyclopedic art museums in the United States and features significant collections of African, American, Asian, European, contemporary art and design arts that spans 5,000 years of history. Additionally, art, design, and nature are featured at The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, Oldfields–Lilly House and Gardens, a historic Country Place Era estate and National Historic Landmark on the IMA grounds and the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana, one of the country’s most highly regarded examples of mid-century Modernist residences. For more information visit http://www.imamuseum.org.

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Stephanie Perry
Indianapolis Museum of Art
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