Petersen Museum opens special Warhol Mercedes car art exhibit

WORDS: ELLIOTT HUGHES | PHOTOGRAPHY: PETERSEN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM

The Petersen Museum’s latest exhibition, Andy Warhol: Cars – Works from the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, has opened in Los Angeles, California.

This is the first time the exhibition has been displayed on US soil in over 30 years, and it provides visitors with a rare opportunity to come face-to-face with the works of the legendary American Pop artist and the world’s most extraordinary cars. 

The display is being held in the museum’s Armand Hammer Foundation Gallery on the first floor, and comprises five of the eight Mercedes-Benz cars depicted in Warhol’s final commission. 

Headlining the collection is the W125 Grand Prix car campaigned by drivers such as Richard Seaman, Hermann Lang and Rudolf Caracciola in 1937. 

The mythical pre-war racing car is being loaned for the exhibition by Mercedes-Benz. The W125’s supercharged eight-cylinder engine produced an incredible 637bhp, making it the most powerful racing car built for over three decades.

Another car making its way from Mercedes-Benz is the experimental C111-II of 1970. Benefiting from a lithe aerodynamic glassfibre body, its original tri-rotor Wankel engine allowed it to reach speeds of 200mph. 

Juan Manuel Fangio’s 1954 W126 Grand Prix car is another model that is sure to attract legions of visitors. The Silver Arrow claimed two Formula 1 World Championships before Mercedes-Benz took a three-decade sabbatical from motor sport following the tragedy at the 1955 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours. 

Muli-Nr. 541, Mercedes-Benz W 125, Baujahr 1937.

Accompanying the vehicles are 40 original works from Warhol’s Cars collection that are also being loaned by Mercedes-Benz. The German manufacturer commissioned the Cars series in 1986 as part of its 100th-anniversary celebrations. The commission was inspired by Warhol’s silkscreen print of a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupé.

Andy Warhol intended to create 80 pieces of art from ten different Mercedes-Benz models that spanned the automaker’s 100-year history, but only 49 works, 36 screen prints and 13 drawings were completed before the artist unexpectedly passed away in 1987. 

Today, Warhol is one of the world’s most celebrated artists – a fact that is reflected in the record-breaking $195m recently paid for his iconic depiction of Marilyn Monroe, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn.

“Andy Warhol was an iconic and influential figure that pioneered Pop art and culture,” said Petersen Automotive Museum executive director Terry L Karges. “Not many have seen his automotive works, so we are excited to display them to the public alongside the unique vehicles that inspired his creative visions. It is an exclusive exhibit that appeals to both admirers of fine art and amazing automobiles.”

Complementing the exhibition is the display of a 1974 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow personally owned by the late artist. After achieving commercial success, Warhol purchased the Rolls-Royce new and kept it for the rest of his life, despite the fact he never obtained a driving licence so only rode in the passenger seat. Mick Jagger, Imelda Marcos and Liza Minnelli all took on chauffeuring duties. 

To purchase tickets, or for more information about the Petersen Automotive Museum, click here.


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