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Exhibit focuses on the behind-the-scenes craftsmen of Italy’s most famous designs

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Photos courtesy ModenArt.

As far back as 1951, cars have been considered legitimate, museum-ready works of art. Since that time, art museums and gallery exhibits have focused almost entirely on the designers who sketched and rendered the appearance of the cars on paper and rather little – if at all – on the craftsmen who translated those renderings into the steel and aluminum final products. An upcoming exhibit in Italy intends to flip that model on its head by highlighting the talents of three Italian metal sculptors.

“In Modena the creation of coach builders used to be an authentic work of art solely based upon pure manual ability,” the website for the ModenArt exhibit notes. “This perfection of execution and extraordinary creativity have given life to a true art form specific to Modena – the fruit of the passion of these genius coach builders. What is left today of their marvellous adventure?

“If what holds true for figurative art was effective for the world of coach building, where works are always associated with their creators, then Giancarlo Guerra, Afro Gibellini and Oriello Leonardi would be as well known as the GTOs, Californias, Testarossas they built with their own hands at the Carrozzeria Scaglietti.”

From left: Guerra with Scaglietti, Leonardi, and Gibellini.

Created to celebrate the talents of Guerra (who crafted the 250 GTO for Scaglietti), Gibellini (Scaglietti’s workshop foreman), and Leonardi – as well as the coachbuilding history of Modena – the ModenArt exhibit won’t simply assemble examples of their work, a task made extraordinarily difficult by the record prices paid for such Ferraris in recent decades. Instead, Italian art critic and author Philippe Daverio, who curated the exhibit, tasked the trio with replicating the bodies of those cars using the same tools (hammers, a tree trunk, a sandbag, shears and a worktop), equipment, and techniques they originally used – a process that required the craftsmen to also replicate the bucks and filone from which they were to take the final shapes of the aluminum bodies.

“These artists, without any financial aim, just simply to show an era that has disappeared, have devoted their experience, skills and passion to put together a collection that is unique in the world,” according to the ModenArt exhibit.

Afro Gibellini at work.

Specifically, the exhibit will focus on several bodies: the Ferrari 250 GTO prototype (which Bizzarrini built in Modeno), the production Series I and Series II Ferrari 250 GTOs, the Ferrari 500 Mondial, the Ferrari 250 GT Nembo Spider, the Maserati 151/3 (bodied by Drogo in Modena), and the Shelby Cobra Daytona (bodied by Carrozzeria Gransport in Modena). The bodies will be presented in bare metal with the signatures of the craftsmen prominent on their flanks.

The “ModenArt: The Sculptors of Movement” exhibit will take place October 10 to 20 in Modena’s 17th century San Carlo church. The exhibit appears to be the first in a series of ModenArt displays.