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.
2 days 9 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago TOMORROW at 4:00—See the world premiere of “The Electric Stage” by performance collective Manual Cinema.
Manual Cinema uses vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live camera feeds, sound design, and a live music ensemble to create immersive visual stories on stage and screen.
2 days 12 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago A Sunday on La Grande Jatte has been among the museum’s most beloved paintings since it first entered the collection in 1926. ARTicle celebrates the birthday of Georges Seurat, with some fun facts about this pointillist masterpiece.
3 days 4 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT Ladies strike a pose in Blackstone Hall, 1909.
Demolished in 1958, the enormous two-story gallery once spanned the area between where the Asian art and Prints and Drawings galleries are today and housed over 150 plaster cast sculptures, many replicas of Greek and Roman art received as gifts from the French government.