By Amit Roy
NEW LONDON EXHIBITION CELEBRATES ICONIC CAR BRAND’S 70TH BIRTHDAY
THE Ferrari has always held special appeal for Indians. Sachin Tendulkar, a fan of racing, was gifted one, though he later sold it to traders in Surat – the opportunities for taking it for a spin in Mumbai are somewhat limited.
Still, Ratan Tata has been spotted taking his out for a classy cruise along Marine Drive. At various times, the businessman Gautam Singhania has been seen with one, as have Bollywood actors Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan.
Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi have driven Ferraris in India, but they have been living in the UK in recent years in enforced exile. In London, it is thought that Sanjay Hinduja is very knowledgeable about Ferraris – and perhaps has one or two – though he probably swaps his toys quite frequently.
To be sure, the Ferrari reeks of wealth, according to Gemma Curtin, co-curator of Ferrari: Under the Skin, a major new exhibition which opened on November 14 in London’s Design Museum to mark the iconic Italian car’s 70th birthday.
That makes the car as old as independent India – and it has also been through some fundamental changes since it was founded in 1947 by Enzo Ferrari. He once confessed: “I have no interest in life outside racing cars.”
Dedicated displays explore the life of Enzo Ferrari, the design of the cars, the brand’s famous clientele, its racing prowess and today’s technical innovations.
Curtin pointed out: “You have to be wealthy to own a Ferrari, but there’s also a level of sophistication.” According to her, the Ferrari is not only an engineering marvel, but also an Italian triumph of design and a beautiful work of art. Curtin drew attention to the fact that the Ferrari symbol, a black prancing horse on a yellow background, suggesting “unpredictable power”, remains unchanged.
The Design Museum in west Kensington used to be the old Commonwealth Institute, a worthy but dull building that has been transformed into a light and airy venue.
Before this exhibition closes on April 15, 2018, it will no doubt be visited by thousands of motoring fanatics. But such an exhibition throws up a great conundrum – how can a country like Italy, capable of producing such works of genius, end up an economic and political mess?
There are evocative black and white photographs – of Ingrid Bergman, Brigitte Bardot and of a model at a Paris show posing next to a Ferrari. Somehow, the newer Ferraris do not seem quite as elegant as those from a bygone age. One owned by Gordon Ramsay looks like a powerful machine escaped from the set of Star Wars.
The exhibition “also looks at Ferrari’s extraordinary celebrity clientele. It was these discerning clients who helped establish Ferrari as the brand we know today.
Notes by Miles Davis feature alongside archive photography of famous clients with their cars, including Clint Eastwood, Sammy Davis Jr and Peter Sellers.
The centrepiece of the section is a 250 3 GT Cabriolet (1957) owned by one of the most famous British racing drivers of all time – Peter Collins. Other cars in this section include an F40 (1988) belonging to Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and a 166 MM (1950) formerly driven by Gianni Agnelli, head of Fiat.”
Sir Terence Conran, founder of the Design Museum said: ‘I think I speak on behalf of millions of ambitious people of all ages that we have all at some point had delicious dreams of owning a Ferrari. The brand itself has become a worldwide symbol of design success… The Ferrari story is truly one of the great adventure stories of the industrial age.”
Incidentally, red is the colour most associated with Ferraris. But, as this exhibition shows, they can also be black, white and blue. Green, as well.