Review: Motion – Autos, Art, Architecture


Curated by architect Norman Foster, Motion: Autos, Art, Architecture at the Guggenheim Bilbao is an visually stunning and elegiac tribute to the golden age of the automobile

The car is the most influential design object of the 20th century. A great liberating force, it purged city streets of the pungent detritus that went with the era of the horse, reshaped cities and mobilised populations. But times have changed. In today’s world of swelling urban demographics and gridlocked streets, the car, much like the post-war generation that embraced it, is now seen as a roadblock to progress on climate change. It is the great polluter – the liberator turned oppressor. The car’s oft predicted end, however, is far from a done deal. Though cities across the developed world would prefer to see cars driven out of the urban realm and are concocting policies intended to do just that, for many of us life without one would be impossible.

And so Motion: Autos, Art, Architecture held within the rippling steel form of the Guggenheim Bilbao is both completely of its moment and one that flies against the prevailing winds. The story of the car is the story of the 20th century – curator Norman Foster, at 86 the UK’s greatest living architect, described the show as a requiem to the age of combustion. And though there are some truly jaw-dropping machines on display, what elevates the exhibition is the attempts to join the car, on the evidence presented here the pinnacle of industrial design, to the art and architecture it inspired and took inspiration from. 

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