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Are design renderings done at automakers "fine art?"

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Are Design Renderings Fine Art?

 

 
 Well, this can of worms was opened when the respected Detroit Institute of Arts announced they will be doing a retrospective on car design in 2020.
Included will be some real cars (not room for more than ten) and some design renderings, maybe as few as 35. Which will mean that design renderings originally one at automakers' behest, will be in an art museum.
Which to me automatically makes them "fine art."
I have a little battle going with a man who is in a society of automotive fine artists who says drawings made on the way to a final product are not "fine art." He uses the example of  drawings of a chair  which he says are not art when the final goal is to get the chair designed.
As an admirer of the Eames chair, I protest because I think as the chair is beautiful, so must be the original conception drawings that led to it. I can see a furniture designer wanting to put those drawings on his wall as a monument to Charles and Ray Eames.


I come to this subject as a historian (18 car histories under my belt) I admire certain car designers throughout history and a lot of them, part of my admiration is based on their renderings of cars to come. Say for instance, Virgil Exner Sr.’s drawings of the Stutz Blackhawk. Beautiful drawings and beautiful car!

In fact, I daresay that some designers got the contract to go ahead and do a production model, or even a one off,  rbased on their drawings. So what they created in a few hours or days spawned a great design that we can drive around.

Now with Detroit designers, time was that they were not allowed to take work home with them. One I knew who did was Larry Shinoda, who did the Mako Shark and early drawings for the Stingray production car. He  used elaborate schemes to smuggle them out. Sometimes car companies went broke and they threw everything in the dumpster! (and the only reason we have some drawings of what they created was because of a dumpster diver!) 

There have been occasions when car designers drawings have been displayed to concours d’elegance, but only one here or there. I remember being entranced decades ago at the Greenfield Village Car Show by a Wayne Kady drawing of a car with a long long hood, some sort of modern Cadillac with 1930’s Deusy proportions.

 

THE DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ART REVERSES POLICY

 The Detroit Institute of Art, thought to be one of the preeminent art museums in the US for many decades refused to consider car renderings as art. Period. And this is a town with probably 3000 to 5000 car designers. Now they are changing their mind—reportedly a new team there has decided that .Golly,  the automobile could be considered an art form.

 


Now if you want to get picky about definitions, “fine art’ is pretty vague as to what qualifies for that appellation, but I’ll wade into the battle, paintbrush in hand. I will admit that car designs done by some artist employed by an automaker or coachbuilder are done for a commercial purpose –i.e. to fit within a certain window. For instance let’s say a tiremaker was involved and so the car has to feature their whoopy do tire, so the illustrator, who might have already had the design laid out in his head, or rough drafts, has to “bend” the drawing or change it from his original conception so the tires look good. Or let’s say the design VP says “And make sure we can still use the tooling for the doors from the X model,”
so again the artist is bending to commercial uses. So since we , looking at old design drawings now, aren’t aware of the hidden restrictions laid on the artist, we as an audience could conceivably deny them the description of “fine art”  because the art world who have us believe fine art is done for aesthetics only, "pure" art as opposed to commercial art.

 But I say even commercial art can be fine art after the passage of time when its aesthetic values are more important than the original commercial uses.

 
THIS IS YOUR REAL JOB…RIGHT? 
When queried, someone on the curation staff at the DIA told me that hey will only have 35 renderings and that they will span the time span from the early days of car renderings to the modern day when they are mostly done by computer.
 
They also stated the drawings are privately owned. And none of them are for sale.
 
I can see when one brings up the subject of ownership, it gets touchy. Because
 car companies do not want their designers doing fine art  while on the job--they want them to put in maximum effort at work,  solving the problem of the day, week or month ("Fred, give me five taillight treatments or that whatsiz...).
   I don't know what their attitude is toward after hours--but I don't imagine they would be too happy with an artist who puts all their effort into fine art at night that they
 plan to sell at a car show or gallery. For one thing there's the worry the artist might inadvertently give away the automaker's newest design trend, tip them off and competitors can beat them to the market with the idea. 

Another reason automakers hold their stores of old renderings sacred is you never know when you are going to go back to an old design, (“Say, Joe, can you go back to the ‘60s file and see how we did that Mustang Station wagon?”) and you as the boss wouldn’t want to go to the file drawer and see drawings that you remembered being there for decades gone. Your company paid for them! They are the intellectual property of that company just like 20th Century Fox has thousands of scripts they commissioned and which are a-molderin’ in a file but no one can take one out and sell it or produce it without buying it from 20th
 
Now I have met designers that handed out drawings of cars they designed. Among them Camilo Pardo of Ford and Ken Okuyama, one time of Pininfarina. In the first case I think Ford had selected Pardo to be a figurehead and approved of it. I don't know what Pininfarina thought but the fact is after designing three production cars there and one prototype , he was out. Generally I think it would make automakers nervous if the execs go to events and see designers in their employ handing out drawings. In both cases above, it was at the intro of a car and blessed by the automaker. 

 
 
AN AMNESTY BASED ON  PETE BROCK

 

We are only talking about a finite class of objects here because sadly most automakers are going over to computer generated design renderings. Which means there won't be the fine art-styled work on paper anymore. But there are hundreds of thousands of these drawings at automakers though some routinely had a cleaning out of the files, and sometimes designers were invited to go and take out their favorites. It was some of those that are being loaned to the Museum. 
 
I say let's eliminate any ambiguity in ownership. If designers have drawings at home, they and their families should be able to go and let the automaker copy them for their files and take back the original. Or automakers who want to clear their files should photograph everything and allow designers or their families to claim the originals in a "grace period."  

 . A new understanding has to be made so the art world can show more design renderings. One venue I can see as a legit reason is at fund raisers, having designers submit art for sale in a silent auction benefitting charity and then the artist, upon a sale, might be able to write off the sold price off his income tax….(better check with Uncle Sam on this…)
 

When I saw Pete Brock at the Art Center Classic show, I approached him about this. I remember seeing his drawing of the Cobra Daytona coupe for Shelby that he has used periodically to promote his talent.  I posed the same question in this headline to him and he said he thought it was fine art, and that he himself went to automakers and got permission to use the art he did for them over 50 years ago, having them scan what he had, and so there is no problem. I suggest The Brock Approach be the model, that all designers who have art at home should be able to go  to a central place, get it photographed and then they are free to keep the originals.

  This could even apply to deceased designers, their families could get the works scanned and keep/ and/or sell the originals.
   What kind of value are we talking about? I am talking potentially thousands. I haven't seen the complete list of selling prices the Italian auction house did of Bertone Carrozzeria drawings but I can imagine a Miura owner paying a [pretty price for an original Gandini sketch of the Miura. I mean after all, it's the man himself who was envisioning the car that hadn't yet been built. What greater tribute could you give the designer than to put that drawing on your wall? I say liberate the design renderings!

 What say you?

Pete Brock says this is his original for Daytona coupe.jpg

Giugiaro sketched the Iso Grifo for Bertone.jpeg

John Blatchley's early '52 Bentley drawing looks more like Jag XK120 competitor.jpg

Pioninfarina didn't mind Okuyama handing these out at the intro.jpg

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23 minutes ago, HistoryBuff said:

...Which will mean that design renderings originally done at automakers' behest, will be in an art museum.

Which to me automatically makes them "fine art."...

 

It would be interesting to see their automotive renderings.

 

But I'll have to say that not everything in art museums

is automatically "fine art."  Sometimes it's hardly "art" at all!

 

There was one case where a modern-style painting,

with all sorts of paint splashes and slashes, was hung

in a modern art museum.  It was later revealed that that

painting was done by a monkey!

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)

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Art is art. No matter what the subject, if it is drawn, sketched, laid out for design, it IS a form of art. Some designs or drawings are FINE art.

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Generally, I tend to think it's not "fine art." It IS art, though. Industrial art. Fine artists bring something unique to their artwork, in the type of medium they use, or the types of strokes they use, a different way in which it is viewed, a statement. In my opinion, industrial artists have to rely on one type of medium with one goal in mind: to produce a rendering that engineers can understand so that they can, in turn,  produce a 3D product. Many industrial artists have gone on to become fine artists, but I suspect that most of them would argue that their images intended for production are not considered fine art.

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I though this was going to be about how the drawings of cars in old magazine ads don't very well represent the actual car.

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 Art must elicit an emotion in the observer to even be considered art. Ergo, what is art to one may not be art to another. There are some basic forms and formulas that many consider basic to "art" but for the most part they can be disregarded and still be "art". Many look at the Mona Lisa and see true art. Others may look at Her and see an illustration. You look an Eames chair and see in it's lines and form art. Others see a piece of furniture (wildly over priced at that).

So your original question has no correct answer.

If a drawing of a car elicits a primal emotion I would say it's "art" to that person at that time and place. If not it's merely a drawing and maybe not a very good one at that.

As to the question of whether it's "fine art" or just plain old "art": Like beauty it's all in the eye of the beholder and some curator, critic, or elite taste maker has no say in the matter no matter what they may think................... Bob

 

 

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Bob, I am 100% in agreement with your statement!  Way too many hang ups in this world about what is right and wrong over things that matter little in the scheme of life.  As each year rolls around I realize that friends, family, and the future of our world are far more important than some of the silliness we argue about day to day.  Now what is really a classic car?  JUST KIDDING! 

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Back to the Original Poster's (History Buff) question:  "Are Design Renderings Done At Auto Makers 'Fine Art'?"  Well, History Buff, you sure know how to kick the top off the ant hill don't you?  As with other respondents to this thread, I don't think that there is a single answer to that question.  In the past, design renderings, automotive or otherwise, were not considered fine art, but were, instead, considered to be commercial/industrial art.  Fine examples of commercial art can be found in any newspaper or magazine, but are not considered to be "fine" art; however, the line between the two can be crossed, as exemplified by the works of Andy Warhol.  In my untutored opinion, most of Warhol's works are merely commercial art.  For example, Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans":

Image result for Andy Warhol soup cans

 

This work relied heavily on a screen printing process, which is frequently used in commercial art works.  It sure looks like commercial art to me, but was dubbed by "elite taste makers" (Thank you Bhigdog) to have been fine art and worthy of hanging in the finest galleries.  As Bhigdog stated above: " ... it's all in the eye of the beholder ...".

 

I have seen some renderings that I think are "fine art" (whatever that is), and some "fine art" which I feel is not fit for the local newspaper.  Just my opinion, and like another asset, we all have one.

 

Cheers,

Grog

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Agree, whoever created some of the art seen in museums should be FINED! 

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10 hours ago, HistoryBuff said:

Are Design Renderings Fine Art?

 

The first time one sells from an artist that has died for 7 figures,  it will then be considered fine art.  Seems to be the way it works quite often. 

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I listed and just sold several Chevy Truck brochures from the 40's and 50's.  They had beautiful artwork in them with city and country scapes in all sorts of seasons.   

You will have to look at completed listings but check them out.  they are pretty cool.  I was thinking of keeping and framing them for the garage.   What some of them sold for,  i probably should have,  as I have often paid much more for lesser stuff to decorate the shop.  

https://www.ebay.com/itm/1950-Chevy-truck-Pickup-COE-Original-Sales-Brochure-Booklet-Catalog-Old-Poster/382666613596?hash=item5918b5235c:g:8bMAAOSw7R9cDzrD

There are alot more than these.  Some great images from days gone by.  

 

s-l1600.jpg

s-l1600-1.jpg

s-l1600-2.jpg

s-l1600-3.jpg

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I recall getting into a rather heated back and forth with a member of this forum a few years ago because he insisted on calling some of his automotive creations "art". It took a while but I think that I eventually convinced him that while he had a right to regard his work as "art", he had no right to expect others to regard it as such. It was, as I told him at the time, craft work to others, and nothing more. "Fine art" is sort of a tricky concept to nail down. I think that it almost has to be proclaimed such by numerous accepted professional artists and learned scholars to be worthy of the title. The beautiful brochures remind me that the US has a wonderful history of great graphic illustrators and artists. You might enjoy going to Google and entering "famous graphic artists.

Edited by Hudsy Wudsy (see edit history)
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Car designers are artists. We are called Industrial Designers. Our degrees are considered a BFA or a Bachelor of Fine Arts. When you go to a college to be a car designer there are 2 schools that count. I am sure somebody will want to argue this but the other schools do not have the requirements, curriculum or prestige. So if you want to learn to design cars and become an Industrial Designer you attend CCS in Detroit Michigan (College for Creative Studies) or you go to Art Center in Pasadena California. Freshman year your class will be several hundred students who all think they know everything about cars. When you make it to graduation 4 or 5 years later your class will be 40 or 50 well trained individuals who know a little bit about design. The first years you will draw everything from toasters to convertibles. You will draw thousands of sketches, drawings and renderings. Instructors will review everything you do and tell you what is wrong with it. Students will either get better or go home. Most go home. At the same time you study fine art, art history, metalsmithing, pottery, painting, writing, English, world history, CAD, Model Making, wood working, etc... all the fine art mediums. So on top of being an artist you are also a designer. Designers create art with a purpose. They create art that can be used. Pretty much anything can become fine art. Anybody can create fine art. But when you ask an artist to make something beautiful on a 127 inch wheelbase that can carry 4 95th percentile US males and fit within a selected package they get a little flustered. A designer will produce results. A designer has a harder job than an artist. A designer has a package to work with, government regulations, cost limitations, brand DNA to use, and still a designer can create something that evokes emotion. If you think a car is art it is. If you think a car is not art then you are wrong. The designer intended it as art. With art true art it is the intention of the designer or artist that defines what it is. If you see art and you do not like it that doesn't make it not art. It has made you evoke an emotion of dislike. Therefore it is art. As for design renderings or sketches not being art? What if a designer draws a car they know can never be built and makes a wonderful rendering? Would this not be art? Fine Artists tend to turn their noses up at Industrial Designers because most ID folks can create fine art. But most fine art folks can't create industrial design. Think it is easy to draw a car? Try drawing 10 different ideas in an hour.

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I have this piece of "art" from a famous car designer from General Motors. His name was Dave Holls, and the image contains his very-distinct signature.

 

Right now I'm trying to find any clue as to its value. People want to buy it, but I have zero clue as to how to price it. Anyone have any suggestions of where to turn for help? 

Concept car drawing OLD green 1.jpg

Concept car drawing OLD green 3.jpg

Concept car drawing OLD green 2.jpg

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I would question the premise, that the expected presence of something at a museum makes it something called "fine art."  Museums show art of many kinds that they think are interesting and valuable; there is no defined category of "fine" art as opposed to other art.  But if a toilet can be art, per Duchamp, I don't see why a drawing of a car can't be.  

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Are renderings fine art? Yes. No question about it. 

 

I just purchased a piece done for Cadillac/Fleetwood of a car in our collection. I am quite sure it is art.......from the price I had to give.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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My father went to art center, then onto GM TO co- design the trans am and the Cadillac Seville. I currently have two original renderings  that were featured in design quarterly? I think that is the magazine. I’m interested in selling them but don’t know how. I also have a 5’x 3’ Watercolor of a hot rod show in Connecticut from the 80’s there is a guy on a victory bike in front of the cars. Any advice?  

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