Driving at the Speed of Art

BMW is one of the most recognized automotive brands available today, incorporating both cutting edge technology and superb design elements into their cars year after year. One unique facet of the brand is their series of art cars, which combines pop art and the automobile, fusing both into a product that is more than a display piece. Make no mistake, these babies are meant to be driven, and in some instances, raced professionally in the grueling 24 Hours of LeMans. Beginning with the first commission in 1975 by Alexander Calder, the art car series has expanded to 17 models, showcasing the talents of David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. Works by Hockney, Lichtenstein, and Stella are in the collection here at the Phillips, and Stella’s latest series is the subject of our current exhibition.

Stella was commissioned by BMW in 1979 to produce an art car based on his Polar Coordinates series of paintings and prints, however he did another art car for a private client in 1979 using the same theme. The grid pattern is said to represent latitude and longitude, with areas of blue, rose, gray, and purple accenting parts of the car.

In the video , you’ll catch a quick glimpse of Stella’s K.43 (lattice variation) protogen RPT sculpture at 29 seconds. You can see the work in its entirety on display in our 3rd floor gallery through September 4 as part of the Stella Sounds:  The Scarlatti K Series exhibition.

Interestingly enough, the Stella BMW M1 art car is slated to go on the auction block at Bonhams this August.

-Sandy Lee, IT Support Specialist

Google doodles Calder

Screenshot of Google homepage with July 22, 2011 Calder-inspired doodle

Today marks the birthday of legendary sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976), and to honor this event, Google has ingeniously re-created their logo as an interactive mobile similar to the ones Calder is famous for. When the user clicks and drags the various panes and shapes of the mobile, it begins to rotate in the direction desired.  Keen-eyed users will notice the faint drop shadow below the search box that mimics the sculpture’s movements above.

-Sandy Lee, IT Support Specialist

Museum and Memory: Part one

El Greco, The Repentant St. Peter, 1600-1605 or later. Oil on canvas, 36 7/8 x 29 5/8 in. Acquired 1922. The Phillips Collection

This is the first installment of our Museum and Memory series for International Museum Day.

My previous job was doing IT Support for a pharmaceutical testing company. They would run clinical trials on rats, monkeys, dogs, etc. It was standard procedure to “garb up” before going into the lab rooms to retrieve PCs and equipment covered in . . . organic material. Eventually (and thankfully), the contract expired and I was let go. My wife told me straight up, “Now is the time to decide what you really want to do! Most people don’t have that luxury!” Within five minutes, I told her, “I want to work in a museum.”

I will always remember the St. Peter by El Greco because I saw it for the first time waiting for my interview here at the Phillips. I kept thinking, “Please, please, please let me work here!” I could not have dreamed of a more perfect fit for an occupation, since my degree was from the University of Maryland College Park in Art Studio.

Last August, while in Spain with my family, we planned a day trip to Toledo, probably about 40 minutes from Madrid. After walking around the city for a bit, we stopped into the House of El Greco (it’s air conditioned), and I was pleasantly stunned to see a second version of The Repentant St. Peter that we have right here at the Phillips! Immediately I exclaimed to my family, “We have THIS painting in our museum!!” I will admit, our setting in D.C. is a bit more inviting, but the air conditioning was very welcome.

Sandy Lee, IT Support Specialist