Porsche Type 901 Prototype, 1963 Courtesy of Don and Diane Meluzio
“Porsche. There is no substitute.”
Up until a couple weeks ago that famous line from “Risky Business” combined with my love for Jake Ryan and his red Porsche in “Sixteen Candles” was the extent of my Porsche knowledge.
That was before I became intrigued with an exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC.
The NCMA’s first-ever design exhibition is the culmination of several years of planning. The exhibition features 22 automobiles highlighting the elements of design, engineering, function and history defining the Porsche brand.
Porsche Type 356 Gmünd Coupe, 1949, Courtesy of the Ingram Collection
As guest curator and automotive journalist Ken Gross states, “These cars are superlative examples of uncompromised, artfully restrained design, lending visual form and grace to the notion of speed.”
Porsche Type 64 Berlin-Rom Racer, 1938, Collection of the Automuseum Prototyp, Hamburg, Germany
Creating an exhibition of this style and scale came with its own unique challenges. In addition to convincing collectors to lend their prized possessions to the museum there were logistical challenges to consider and contend with in order to get the cars safely to Raleigh for what is the largest display of its kind in a U.S. art museum.
Porsche Type 911 Sport Classic Carrera, 2010 Courtesy of the Ingram Collection
My visit to Porsche by Design is enhanced by a personal tour given by Barbara Wiedemann, co-curator of the exhibition.
Porsche by Design follows the automotive time-line from Ferdinand Porsche’s early days up to a 2010 hybrid race car.
From the 1938-9 Type 64 Berlin-Rom racer, the handcrafted 1949 Gmünd coupe, Steve McQueen’s 1958 Type 356 Speedster down to her favorite – the 1965 Type 904/6 Prototype – Wiedemann enthusiastically details how design and engineering come together in each car.
Barbara Wiedemann, director of publications at the NCMA and managing curator stands in front of the Porsche Type 904/6 Prototype, 1965, Private collection of Cameron Healy and Susan Snow
She recounts the story of the opening gala and thrill of having nine of the car owners in attendance. She chuckles telling me how Chad McQueen, son of Steve McQueen, walked up to his car, unsnapped the windows, tossed them in the back seat and said, “That’s how this car should be displayed.”
The exhibit is located in the east building of the museum in the Maymandi Exhibit Hall. However, one vehicle is in the West building. It’s a 1965 Cabriolet belonging to the Joplin family on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Porsche Type 356C Cabriolet, 1965, Collection of the Joplin Family, Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, Ohio
The psychedelically painted convertible belonged to singer Janis Joplin. I can see why she loved it and I enjoy hearing how one of her roadies was the artist behind the wildly colorful Cabriolet.
Perhaps it’s the vivid paint or knowing Joplin loved driving the car or maybe it’s just because I like her music, but it strikes a chord with me.
Joplin and her band painted on her Cabriolet in the foreground. In the background is a famous piece by Late Gothic painter Giotto di Bondone
The exhibition runs through January 20, 2014 and is tailored to appeal to a diverse audience. Group, adult, K-12, college tours and tour and lunch packages are offered as well as individual and audio tours. I highly recommend the audio tour for in-depth descriptions of the cars.
Porsche Type 804 Formula One, 1962, The Porsche Collection of Ranson W. Webster
The museum is hosting multiple events designed to tie in with the exhibit over the next months. Events include Car Meetups, a film series, a documentary screening, lectures, concerts, book club discussions and a Porsche raffle.
Porsche Type 356 Speedster 1600 Super, 1958, belonged to actor Steve McQueen, Collection of Chad McQueen
The Museum Store and Porsche by Design Exhibition Store feature a variety of memorabilia commemorating the exhibit as well as a hard cover catalog edited by Ken Gross and Barbara Wiedemann.
Porsche videos are available to view on line as well as at the NCMA. The videos provide great detail and feature interviews with Porsche collectors such as Jay Leno, Derek Bell and Dan Neil.
Visitors may also enjoy dining either at the museum restaurant, Iris, or in the Porsche Biergarten. The Biergarten serves German-inspired cuisine and North Carolina craft beers.
Porsche Type 550 Prototype, 1953, The Revs Institute for Automotive Research
The NCMA has put together a visitor-friendly exhibition with broad appeal. Whether your Porsche knowledge is as limited as mine or you’re an enthusiast – the exhibition is aesthetically pleasing, educational and powerful.
It’s worth taking your time to study the art. It’s for this reason Wiedemann says many visitors make multiple trips to see and experience these vehicles.
Lawrence J. Wheeler, director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, said “At the NCMA we are continually looking for ways to engage our audience with exhibitions and installations that help interpret the world around us through the lens of art and design.”
Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed achieves this goal.
Porsche Type 908K Prototype, 1968, Private collection of Cameron Healy and Susan Snow
Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed at the North Carolina Museum of Art through January 20, 2014
Tuesday-Thursday 10 am-5 pm
Friday 10 am-9 pm
Saturday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm
$15 Seniors (65+), military, groups of 10+, college students w/ current ID
$12 Youth 7-18
If you like this please share it with your friends. As always, Happy Travels!