Cars at MoMA

As you know, MoMA has one of the greatest and well-known collections of modern art in the world. Its recent exhibits include Hopper and O’Keefe’s best pieces. So we were surprised to learn that one of the pieces on exhibit was currently sitting at Lift Trucks. No, we didn’t find a Picasso on Ebay, but we do have a 1943 Ford truck before they were called “jeep”.  MoMA has a military 1950’s Willys-Overland Jeep. Essentially the same vehicle.

Most people are pleasantly surprised to hear that the MoMA has cars on exhibit. They have so many fantastic and unique pieces, why include something that we see and use every day? Sure, there are gems like the 1963 Jaguar E-type and a stunning red 1946 Cisitalia, but these you would expect to see at a car show, not an art museum. Even more puzzling is the inclusion of a 2002 Smart Car and a VW Beetle. Also, compared to the thousands of paintings and drawings, they have 6 cars in total.

According to the curator, Peter Reed, “Automobiles are among the most significant inventions of industrial civilization. Each of the six cars in MoMA’s collection is an innovative, influential design. Historically, aesthetics and speed have been primary concerns. Today, we are no less concerned with aesthetics but recognize other compelling issues in personal transportation including affordability and efficiency.” Cars are a part of everyday life, but we can still find art in them. Even a simple Honda Civic has elements of design to it; otherwise we would all be driving the same box on wheels. It’s amazing how many different styles of vehicles are on the road at once.

The jeep is the most unique piece of the group though. The whole exhibit shows how a car is about more than just getting from point A to B, but this car is designed for just that. While the Jaguar might have sleek curves, and the beetle possesses an iconic design, the Jeep is built for pure efficiency. Here you see a car literally made for war, where every inch of the car is built for the most practical and tactical reasons. Those iconic headlights? Made that way so they could be flipped around to see the engine when you are fixing the car in combat. That cool looking grill that you still see today wasn’t an artist’s design, it was the result of hundreds of tests to get the most efficient airflow to the engine.

We also have the same Jeep sitting at Lift Trucks Project right now. We saw it driving around town for years, and finally got the retired fire chief to sell it. It was sitting in a dusty old garage, complete with the manuals, shovels, and a replica gun attatchment. Be sure to stop by and check it out.

As with most good exhibits it makes you think. It makes you think about what you are driving next time you’re on the freeway. In the family SUV.  


Here are some photos of our Jeep, currently being restored: