Since the turn of the 20th century, the possibilities of technological invention have been a source of great fascination. Digging into the past, projections about our future world can offer a fascinating glimpse into the popular imagination and the hopes and values of different eras. Be it robot servants, flying cars, or moon colonies, retro depictions of the future can also be a great source of kitsch and aesthetic cool.
Since the 1930s, car companies have explored cutting-edge automobile design with concept cars, or “dream cars”, often highlighted at auto shows around the world. Most of these cars never go into production; the ones that do lose many of their zanier features for the sake of practicality. One concept car made by Lincoln in 1954 became the Batmobile in the popular Batman TV series of the 1960s. A few images of these futuristic cars are featured in our latest photography show When Collecting Was New: Photographs from the Robert A. Taub Collection.
Robert A. Taub, a photography collector whose expansive acquisitions are currently featured in Galleries 1–4, once served as counsel and later vice president of the Ford Motor Company. As an officer on the Ford Motor Company Fund, he spearheaded the purchase of modernist photography as a gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Recently, he generously gifted the core of his own collection to the Art Institute’s Department of Photography.
Among the many photographs on display in When Collecting Was New are these commercial photographs commissioned some time in the late 1970s by Ford for an annual report that was never published. Using a large-format camera, photographer Joel Meyerowitz captured these “dream cars” in rich glossy detail. While they still seem to belong to a future we never arrived to, one can also see features that became popular in cars of the following decade, particularly the rounded corners of the so-called jellybean era of automobile production in the 1980s that valued the energy-saving aspects of aerodynamic design.
When Collecting Was New (closing May 12) features an eclectic mix of photographs tracing the full history of the medium, including these funky futuristic cars and much more.
Joel Meyerowitz. Untitled (Ford Marketing Image), 1978/79. Gift of Robert A. Taub.
1 hour 8 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago “Painting depends on ink, ink depends on brush, brush depends on wrist, and wrist depends on the heart and mind.” —Tao Chi
The Inspired Chinese Brush is an installation of traditional Chinese ink paintings showcasing the rich variety of textural effects that could be achieved through careful control of the combination of ink and brushes used in their creation. Tang Yin’s painting Drinking at Night portrays the prominent 11th–century Chinese poet, calligrapher, and governmental official Su Shi drinking alone in a pavilion on a moonlit night. The work gets its name from Su Shi’s poem “Drinking on an Evening in Spring,” which is quoted on the scroll following the painting.
See this painting and the rest of the exhibition on view now in Gallery 134.
17 hours 28 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago The Museum Shop’s new fall collection has arrived online! Spend $75 or more by August 31 and receive free standard shipping on your order. Enter promo code FALL75 at checkout.
20 hours 59 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago Yesomi Umolu, exhibitions curator at Logan Center Exhibitions, will be taking over our Instagram feed tomorrow.
Follow along to learn more about Yesomi’s work and see art from our collection that inspires her.