Cars: Accelerating the Modern World


Lowrider Convention in Los Angeles © 2019 Nathanael Turne
From November 23, 2019 until April 19, 2020
The V&A has opened an exhibition looking at the car as the driving force that accelerated the pace of the 20th century.
Senior design curator Brendan Cormier wanted to explore the impact of the car as a designed object, and how it has so fundamentally altered the world as we know it. “Exploring the agency of the car and its butterfly effect, we felt, would be enormously helpful to understand the role design plays in the world more generally, both good and bad.”
The car as a vehicle, coupled with the freedom, frivolity and individualism that came with it, has changed the physical shapes of our world and how we culturally relate to one another. Cormier mentions that the car has become such a powerful symbol of individual freedom and expression which “makes thinking of coordinated and collective mobility decisions more difficult”
In many ways, this cultural development has been quite detrimental to us, our cities and the globe itself. “The car helped fuel both ideas of nationalism as well as globalization, and it has reordered both the physical realities of certain parts of the world through oil extraction, but also the geopolitics of the world through the broader oil economy.”
Cormier’s research building up to the exhibition underlined that the car, as it exists today wouldn’t have been possible or practical without governmental support–highway building efforts, laws on how we build our urban environments and infrastructure facilitating global oil supply. Similarly, when looking forward, many alternatives “such as electric cars or more investment in other kinds of mobility won’t become possible without public and private interests rallying behind them.”
Cars: Accelerating the Modern World
V&A, London
23 November 2019 – 19 April 2020.
© Louwman Museum – The Hague (NL)
French advertisement (1934) for the Tatra 77
A.C. Gilbert Co. ‘Airflow’ Table Fan, 1937 Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art
Victoire' mascot, designed by René Lalique , 1925 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
General Motors Firebird I (XP-21) © General Motors Company, LLC