Car artists

Auto tattoo

Renault and that period of the “Supercinq”

Photo credit: Archivio Domus, Nick Giordano

It’s weird: we get tattoos on our bodies but we’re afraid of getting them on our cars. Someone in history did just that though, decorating cars to send out a message that went beyond the shape of the model and was reflected onto the vision of the brand or even the image of the customers. BMW were masters of this, but before they arrived, other artists and creatives had proposed decorated cars.

Today we want to remember a very significant case: we’re talking about Renault who, in 1984, for the launch of the Supercinq that replaced their iconic R5, seized the moment of the postmodern revolution to give their new car a character that was truly relevant. The similarity to the previous one – both a plus and a minus at the same time – required a touch of imagination.

Eight personalities were chosen for the project: the design was entrusted to two great masters, Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini. The aesthetics to Franco Maria Ricci and Paolo Portoghesi. For fashion Gianfranco Ferré. For the artistic trends of the time, Mario Mertz, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Ugo Nespolo. Other artists were also involved, such as the French genius Roland Topor and Emilio Vedova.

Viewed today, these cars speak a fascinating language that shows how certain ideas found space in other fields and even within the automobile itself, as is the case of the of Sottsass and the Volkswagen Golf painted in various bright colours. One thing is for sure: the car could be used far more to communicate. Then, if you want, you simply change it or repaint it. Much easier than tattoos…

Ettore Sottsass, 1984
Alessandro Mendini, 1984
Franco Maria Ricci, 1984
Paolo Portoghesi, 1984
Gianfranco Ferré, 1984
Mario Merz, 1984
Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1984
Ugo Nespolo, 1984