Why a car can be art.

Walking to work in the morning is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on my studies. I am lucky to live in a historical city with lots of wonderful architecture, old trees, a stunning cathedral and the River Severn. It unfortunately comes with a lot of traffic. As a city which was originally designed for horse and cart rather than motor vehicles the somewhat narrow streets, become rather congested in the mornings and evenings.

This morning I was considering the question about what art is, more precisely what I consider to be art.

I am at a stage in my studies now where we are looking at a lot of very contemporary, rather abstract pieces of art. If I were to choose to visit a gallery, I would not visit one if it were showing pieces of this kind. It just really is not for me.

I appreciate the thought process that goes behind the pieces, such as the message of the inevitability of the somewhat abstract concept of death in Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. It is thought provoking, it strikes conversations and disagreements about what the piece means and exactly what it represents. But why do it? It really is not my thing.

Duchamp’s fountain is an example of found and functional art. In a gallery it is art, in a building plumbed into a wall, it is simply what it is, a urinal. It is an example of an item of design. Not artwork by design but something designed which, to some is aesthetically pleasing.

As I was walking this morning to work, past the wonderful architecture of the old buildings on the road to work I decided something. Cars are art.

Like the urinal, cars are designed, they serve a purpose, they serve a job and they are mass-manufactured.

However, take them off the road, put them into a show ground, dress them up, put them in neat rows amongst other cars and they become something else. The show ground becomes a gallery, the cars are on display. Their lines, their features are examined by experts, fans and the public. It is decided which of these cars is attractive, which are not. The speed is not always the deciding factor of the favourites, nor is it how comfortable it is to drive, it is how it looks and how it is perceived when you look at it. Perhaps it is a car they remember as a child, the sight of it is thought provoking, emotional, a reminder of a time long forgotten. Or perhaps, it is a dream car, something to aspire to, something they wish to own. They take a photo of the car, put a poster on the wall, they admire it.

In this setting a car is no longer a machine, it becomes a work of art.

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