Is it possible to unite Sonia Delaunay, one of the key figures of modern art who was born in Russia in the late 1800s with an English street artist hiding behind the name Banksy? What does an Irish sculptor who makes strange vehicles called Andy Saunders and the French-born American artist Arman, best known known for his “accumulations” have in common?
And, again, what is it that brings together a Hungarian graphic designer named Vasarely, widely accepted as the “grandfather” and leader of the Op art movement, and Carlos Cruz-Diez, the Venezuelan artist who created kinetic energy out of his use of colours and stripes?
It is possible. Particularly when it’s the automobile that inspires their creativity. The Matra 530 with bright colours encased in geometric shapes painted by Sonia Delaunay when she was 82 years old for the magazine French Realités, and the surreal, destructured and masterfully colourful Citroen 2CV that the young Saunders dedicated to Picasso, clearly have the same muse.
The same goes for the refined Daf that Cruz-Diez painted with meticulousness, even going so far as painting the tyres, and the Opel Kadett that Vasarely gracefully interpreted by playing on a recurring black and white pattern. Arman and Banksy, at different times and on different paths, also met. For once, the artist from Nice did not transform the car into a compressed, shapeless mass. In fact, his concept of accumulation was expressed on the bodywork of an elegant black Renault 4, with the reproduction of 819 side profiles of the Renault 4, transforming it into a refined texture.
In contrast, evoking Arman, Banksy found an abandoned Triumph GT6 MK III on a London street and painted it in a psychedelic pink colour including a skeleton driver painted on one of the windows to show how long he’d been waiting.
The automobile is, by many accounts, art in itself. But it has always inspired artists, just think of the Italian Futurists with their legendary dreams of speed as shown by the magnificent “Gran Premio” by Cesare Andreoni that used for the cover. It is therefore amusing to remember these examples that have now been almost completely forgotten.