Switzerland Hosts an Art Basel for Car Collectors

The organizers of Miami’s Art Basel show are endeavoring to elevate automobiles to an art form. From September 6 through 9, they’ll be hosting the inaugural Grand Basel car exhibit in Switzerland.

The exhibition juxtaposes a range of rare conveyances—everything from a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom to a 2018 Bugatti Chiron—against fashion, art, architecture, and design. The display will travel to Miami Beach in February and then to Hong Kong in May.

“This is not another car show,” said Mark Backé, the show’s director. “The world does not need another car show. Grand Basel is a collectors’ event.”

Culling 111 automotive masterpieces from more than 300 applications, the exhibit presents cars, buggies, and motorbikes in austere frames unfettered by plaques or captions.

“The fact that you don’t know the horsepower of that Ferrari over there—I don’t think that hinders your understanding of a marvelous object,” said Stephen Bayley, a UK-based cultural commentator and honorary member of Grand Basel’s board.

About a quarter of the cars, borrowed from dealers and private owners, are priced for sale.

At a media preview on Tuesday, organizers unveiled a full-size model of the Linea Diamante—an austere, flat-bodied sedan deemed too radical for production when Gio Ponti, creator of Milan’s 32-story Pirelli Tower and the Superleggera chair, designed it in 1953.

Other highlights include Pablo Picasso’s 1963 Lincoln Continental in an installation by Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury, a 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, and a 1947 Cisitalia 202 SC. Showgoers can also see models from defunct marques such as IsoRivolta and Isotta Fraschini.

The question of whether cars may be considered art dominated conversation on the show floor.

“A car is a sculptural presence that stimulates desire and inspires emotion,” Bayley said. “It has an individual auteur. If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.”