For those of us who regularly frequent auto show halls to gawp at new metal, the l’Automobile et la Mode exhibition at the 2014 Paris auto show was a refreshing and inspirational look back at the glory days of the automobile and their association with contemporary fashion.
Better than the previous exhibition we attended two years ago in Hall 8 of the Parc d’Expositions, the exhibition sequence followed the timeline of the great eras that left their mark both on the history of automobiles through no less than 50 vehicles, all symbols of their generations. The exhibition also included photographs by legendary fashion photographers Henry Clarke, Robert Doisneau, Helmut Newton, Peter Knapp, Jean-Daniel Lorieux and Peter Lindbergh as well as vintage advertisements and catalog extracts produced by manufacturers and used as a backdrop to the iconic vehicles on display.
Starting the tour was a Panhard et Levassor M2F 6CV from 1897, a pioneering vehicle associated with the glory days of the ‘belle époque’ and one of the first mass produced cars (the French company built 30 cars in 1891), a 1925 example of Ford’s Model T (black of course), a 1914 Hotchkiss AD 20/30 HP Limousine and a gorgeous 1937 Peugeot 402 Eclipse decapotable.
The stars of the Concours d’Elégance of the ’20s and ’30s and their legendary bodywork — Voisin C28 Aérosport (1935), Talbot-Lago T150C SS (1939) and Renault Viva Grand Sport Cabriolet (1935) — sat opposite, depicting the ethereal sculptural qualities of the automobile during the Art Deco period. A photo of Colette Salomon in her Bugatti at Montihery circuit in 1927 (by George Hoyningen-Huene, Vogue Paris) and illustrations from Eric (Vogue Paris) beautifully depicted the elegance associated with the motor car in the 1930s.
From there the path led through to the post-war icons, with the beautiful 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, 1951 Jaguar XK 120, 1964 Facel Vega HK II, 1958 Citroën DS 19 all gleaming under the spotlights, the sensual purity of their lines a visual contrast to those of Pop Art years section opposite.