Full throttle: a fleet of supercharged art cars goes on show in Miami

Lincoln Road multi-storey car park
Richard Prince's 'Vanishing Point (The Artist Cut)', 2012-13 - incorporating a 2012 Dodge Challenger R/T - is one of a series of art cars parked up inside Miami's 1111 Lincoln Road multi-storey car park as part of the 'Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile' exhibition
(Image credit: Richard Prince)

The link between cars and art has always been strong. While the Italian Futurists - perhaps the first movement to really engage with the rapid motorisation of the world - hailed the vision of speed, chaos, dust and destruction the motor car promised, others have embraced it for purely sybaritic reasons; fast cars are one of the perks of fame, fortune and an unconventional approach to life.

Miami's 1111 Lincoln Road is the perfect venue (opens in new tab) for a new showing of the ultimate collection of art cars during Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami (opens in new tab). Exploring the history of auto-art mash-ups, Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile arranges a dizzying selection of contemporary art cars around the ramps and offset columns of Herzog & de Meuron's award-winning multi-use car park space. With exhibits that range from one of César's celebrated crushed 'car bricks' to a cheekily spot-painted Leyland Mini - an early piece of Hirst brand extension - to its precursor, a squiggle saturated Buick given the Keith Haring treatment, nearly every conceivable angle of the car's relationship with art is covered.

Ron Arad has also been at the crusher, and his pancaked Fiat 500 (opens in new tab) evokes affection and dismay in equal measure, while American artist Lucien Smith has stayed with the theme of decay. 'The sound of the engine still running and for the last time they locked eyes, together again in the end' is the wretched carcass of a pick-up truck turned shooting target.

Cars in art are either conduits for sex or death. The Brookyln art collective Bruce High Quality Foundation have taken two elderly Beetles and set them at each other's throats, anthropomorphising the familiar forms into a bio-mechanical brawl. Dan Colen and Nate Lowman have turned a battered old Jag into a chaotic receptacle of dead and dying technology to create the hipster-baiting 'Welfare Mothers Make Better Lovers'. Of all the exhibits, the late Salvatore Scarpitta's Ernie Triplett Special is one of the most intriguing, being a fully-functional race car used by the artist's own sprint car team in Pennsylvania.

Richard Prince is also an auto obsessive, preferring the 1970s-era muscle cars. His 'Vanishing Point (The Artist Cut)' is a contemporary update of earlier works, referencing the iconic road movie and the menacing forms of Dodge's old and new. Richard Phillips is another subscriber to the cult of the muscle car. 'Playboy Charger' is a fully functional spin-off from Phillips' recent 'Playboy Marfa' installation (opens in new tab). Other featured artists include Tom Sachs, Franz West, Virginia Overton, Kenny Scharf, Olivier Mosset and Joshua Callaghan, who is using a LaFerrari, the show sponsor's latest model (opens in new tab), as the basis for a life-size charcoal rubbing, underway throughout the duration of the show. Curated by Venus Over Manhattan (opens in new tab), the show makes exceptional use of the 1111 space, fulfilling its original role as a place to both park and show art.

Welfare Mothers Make Better Lovers

'Welfare Mothers Make Better Lovers', by Dan Colen and Nate Lowman, 2008, comprises a refashioned 1973 Jaguar. The car park itself was designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron

(Image credit: Dan Colen and Nate Lowman)

Old Jaguar

The artists have have turned the battered old Jaguar into a chaotic receptacle of dead and dying technology

(Image credit: press)

The car overflows with wires

The car overflows with wires, monitors, DVD players, GPS devices, amplifiers, power converters, stereos and a Christmas tree

(Image credit: press)

Latest model

'Focus', by Joshua Callaghan, 2013, is a new work produced specifically for the Piston Head exhibit. The artist has used the LaFerrari - the show sponsor's latest model - as the basis for a life-size charcoal rubbing

(Image credit: Joshua Callaghan)

Compression Voiture Venise

'Compression Voiture Venise', by César, 1995

(Image credit: press)

Buick Special

'Untitled (Car)', by Keith Haring, 1986, features a 1963 Buick Special

(Image credit: Keith Haring)

Panhead

'Panhead', by Olivier Mosset, 2007, features a 1965 Harley Davidson FLH

(Image credit: Olivier Mosset)

Ernie Triplett Special

'Ernie Triplett Special (S.A.L. Ernie Triplett Spl)', by Salvatore Scarpitta, 1968-69. The fully-functional race car was used by the artist's own sprint car team in Pennsylvania

(Image credit: Salvatore Scarpitta)

The sound of the engine still running

'The sound of the engine still running and for the last time they locked eyes, together again in the end', by Lucien Smith, 2013

(Image credit: Lucien Smith)

The rusted pick-up truck

The remains of the rusted pick-up truck was turned into a shooting target

(Image credit: press)

Mini Cooper

'Untitled (Spot Mini)', by Damien Hirst, 2000, incorporates a Mini Cooper

(Image credit: Damien Hirst)

Hirst-branded Mini

Colourful painted polka dots cover this Hirst-branded Mini

(Image credit: Mini)

Playboy Charger

'Playboy Charger', by Richard Phillips, 2013, features a 1972 Dodge Charger

(Image credit: Richard Phillip)

Playboy Marfa

The car is a fully functional spin-off from Phillips' recent 'Playboy Marfa' installation

(Image credit: press)

Art History with Passion

'Art History with Passion', by The Bruce High Quality Foundation, 2013, comprises two Volkswagen Beetles set at each other's throats. The familiar forms are anthropomorphised into a bio-mechanical brawl

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

A video installation

The Beetles' windscreens also integrate a video installation

(Image credit: press)

Chevrolet Caprice

Untitled (1989 Chevy Caprice), by Tom Sachs, 2007, features a 1989 Chevrolet Caprice

(Image credit: Tom Sach)

The dashboard of Sach's Caprice

The dashboard of Sach's Caprice is lined with added switches

(Image credit: press)

Truck

'Truck', by Virginia Overton, 2013, takes a 1993 Dodge Ram 150 as its base

(Image credit: Virginia Overton)

Ford Galaxie

'Ford Galaxie', by Olivier Mosset, Jacob Kassay and Servane Mary, 2013, features a 1964 Ford Galaxie

(Image credit: Olivier Mosset, Jacob Kassay and Servane Mary)

Suprema Ultima Deluxa Van Chrome Cadillac

'Suprema Ultima Deluxa Van Chrome Cadillac', by Kenny Scharf, 1984, features a 1961 Cadillac

(Image credit: Kenny Scharf)

Vibrant vehicle

Scharf used acrylic, spray paint and found objects to update the wildy vibrant vehicle

(Image credit: Kenny Scharf)

Pressed Flower

'Pressed Flower (Baby You Can)', by Ron Arad, 2013, is made from a Fiat 500, squashed by a hydraulic press

(Image credit: Ron Arad)

The flattened Fiat

The flattened Fiat evokes affection and dismay in equal measure

(Image credit: press)

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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.