New Yorker review of MOMA’s 1953 show ‘Ten Automobiles’

Let’s indulge in a little snooty snarkiness of 1950s New York for a moment with the New Yorker‘s review of the now-famous MOMA exhibition “Ten Automobiles’. The show now has a reputation as one of the defining moments in the recognition of automobile design. Only two years prior did the MOMA put cars on display for the first time with such a kind of stature. Today, a car that was in either of these shows has a fair bit of gravitas, most famously the Cisitalia 202, which is still on display at the MOMA in a very self-aware display. Part of why these cars are so well recognized is because they were recognized those decades ago. In any case, let’s hear the New Yorker tease the curator of this lofty show.


The New Yorker’s correspondent, determined to have some fun, plauged Drexler [the organizer of the exhibit -ed.] with awkward questions during the press preview, later reporting that, ‘Drexel took us up myrtle and down marble around the garden and called our attention to the fact that the Studebaker’s hood [bonnet] is lower than the adjoining fenders. “Better visibility for the driver?” we asked, thinking old-fashioned, drive-yourself thoughts. “Greater refinement of design”, said Drexler …We asked the price of the Cunningham and the Nash-Healey, and again we perceived we had put our foot in it. “I honestly don’t know what any of these cars cost”, Drexler said, his young face as long as the Simca he was standing by …”My own favorite car in this show is the Siata,” Drexler said leading us to it …”handle nicely, does it?” we asked and could have kicked ourselves. “I don’t drive”, said Drexler and by then his face was as long as a Lancia and getting longer.

Cited as – ‘Boxes and Envelopes’, The New Yorker, 3 October 1953 – in

Margolius, Ivan. Automobiles by Architects. Great Britain; Wiley-Academy, 2000. p. 25.

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