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Milestones Automotive Design | Example Mercedes-Benz
June 25 – September 14, 2008

Grand Prix Rennwagen „W 196 R“ von Mercedes-Benz, 1954

Striking in their radical posture – already from a distance they arouse our curiosity: Extremely rare examples of cars bearing the star symbol. Never before have they been seen in this particular composition, stringently focused on aerodynamics, speed and Gestaltung (form giving processes): The Lightning Benz (Blitzen Benz) – capable of speeds of more than 200 km/h – almost a hundred years old! The Silver Arrow Grand Prix racing car »W 196 R« with its streamlined bodywork, 1954. The jet black painted sculpture of the Autobahn-Kurier of 1938 – unit numbers: 2. Equally rare the futuristic high-performance C111-3 of 1978 – a design study. The icon of style, the 300 SL Coupé – nicknamed the >Gullwing< because of its doors resembling wings, 1955. The Coupé CLS of 2004, untypically with four doors. The Bionic Car – a singular experimental car of 2005 whose shape was modelled on the streamlining characteristics of nature: To be exact – the aerodynamics of the cubicus boxfish (>ostracion cubicus<).
In conjunction with the cars, the exhibition also focuses on the design work. This is illustrated in the form of drafts, sketches, renderings, tapes and models. Die Neue Sammlung presents a walk-in installation in which the cars are featured as the outcome of design processes.



For a modern design museum, and that is how Die Neue Sammlung has seen itself since its foundation in the framework of German Werkbund back in 1907, a focus on automobile design quite obviously plays a crucial role. No other industrially manufactured object so shaped the face of 20th century life as did the automobile, and I mean that not only in a technological, social and economic sense, but also as regards design.
As “rolling sculptures”, vehicles have only been included in exhibitions in museums that concerned themselves with design issues since the 2nd half of the 20th century, but then only marginally. However, almost from the very outset the automobile was also considered an aesthetic object, as the famed saying by Marinetti dating from 1909 clearly shows.
As the only non-technical museum to date, Die Neue Sammlung established a dedicated Car Design section when it opened at Pinakothek der Moderne, and there milestones in automotive design are presented from the viewpoint of streamlining. After considering all manner of different aspects of this topic in recent years, it seemed only logical now to prepare an exhibition joining up with the corporation that has like no other helped write and shape the history of the automobile.
In the show we have therefore not focused on mass-produced series, but on the search for perfection, something that can evidently only be manifested by one-off and small-series cars, setting the scale or example for countless others to follow. Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century, only two years after our collection was founded and after Picasso had painted his “Demoiselles d'Avignon”, and at the same time as the afore-mentioned Futurist Manifesto penned by Italian artist Marinetti and the first examples of abstract painting – the world was thrilled by the Lightning Benz. Indeed, only time can tell whether the Bionic Car developed in 2005 will play a similarly central role.
The selection at Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich ensures that the exhibition is truly unique, as all these vehicles are otherwise scattered around the world, largely in private collections. It offers a very exciting view of the history of automotive design in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Florian Hufnagl
Die Neue Sammlung – State Museum of Applied Art | Design in Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

Die Neue Sammlung | Design in der Pinakothek der Moderne in collaboration with Daimler AG