Entering the 19th century carriage house of Morton Street Partners in NYC‘s West Village reveals a realm of delightful organized chaos filled with cars, NFTs and artwork sprinkled throughout the white cube space. The working garage door seems to be a nod to the purpose of the room, which houses the inaugural exhibition Unsafe at Any Speed, where car expert trio Tom Hale, Jake Auerbach and Benjamin Tarlow merge their love for automobiles and art into one impressive installation.
“Why must the worlds of art, design and fashion have to live in separate universes from the historically significant automobile?” Hale asks COOL HUNTING. “Cars transcend the status of hand-formed special objects, their own archival past, contextual narratives and provenance. We realized there was an urgent need for disruption in a very insider and singular world of rarified automobiles. Cars are art and these worlds can certainly be combined.”
It’s fascinating really; how seamless the many dichotomous components fit together like a puzzle. A beautiful vintage car that commands attention is the first to greet visitors. There’s then an NFT display nearby, and another translucent Citroen vehicle with all of its mechanical components next to it. Further down the line is a blast into the future, as a futuristic concept car designed by Zaha Hadid sits still as if it were secretly scanning all those who come near it. The three aforementioned cars are here for this show, and models will change with each exhibition.
Spread along the walls are featured works by over 40 different artists from around the world. Expansive oil canvas paintings of serpents in trees, human figure sketches and abstract scenes are just a few examples of what’s on display. Put together by art-world provocateur Kenny Schachter, the curation feels as if it were meant to seem uncurated. When asked where he found the featured artists, Schachter responds, “Everywhere. A lot on Instagram.”
This sort of discovery is the exact spirit the trio at Morton Street Partners is drawn to. “As evidenced by the art on display, Kenny’s curatorial instinct tends toward the ‘salon’ model, where a broad cross-section of the current art landscape can be installed side by side. The trio of automobiles in Unsafe At Any Speed couldn’t be more different, yet they are all united by a design-forward aesthetic and inherent artistic merit,” says Tarlow.
This marriage between aesthetic and artistic merit for automobiles has been creeping up in the art space over the years. “We see the automobile as one of the most important design artifacts of the 20th century,” Auerbach says. They’re a relatively young form of design, but their timeline can be broken down into discrete eras that reflect the aesthetics, socio-economics and politics of the time and place they were built. Just recently, NYC’s Museum of Modern Art presented Automobilia which thoroughly documented the role of cars in modern society. And Auerbach himself was a part of the Sotheby’s team that hit the record-setting sale of a 1962 Ferrari 250GTO for $48.4 million in 2018.
While Morton Street Partners may be considered a first of its kind, it seems that its mission is to inform viewers of a fact that they may already know. “It’s our experience that professionals in our industry treat car and art clients as separate,” he says. “Though many times they are, there’s something inherent to the mind of a collector that understands cars as a slightly different dialect of the same language they already understand.”
Images courtesy of Morton Street Partners