Paris: L’Art de l’Automobile, (Ralph Lauren) at Les Arts Decoratifs

by Sasha Wilkins on August 24, 2011 · 1 comment

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Imagine my horror at seeing the above queue for Les Arts Decoratifs next door to the Louvre when I had finally found a docking station for my Velib (FORTY minutes cycling like a loon across the rue Saint Honore and up and down avenue de l’Opera frantically stabbing at my iPhone Velib app in the hope a free dock might appear).

Generally, I don’t do lines. Heels too high, busy, busy darling. I just turn tail and hoof it elsewhere. There’s always another restaurant to eat in, another museum to visit. And as for lines to get in to shops…But, in this case, all the shops were shut (Sunday in August), I had already eaten, the Louvre round the corner is HELL on a Sunday, and I really, REALLY wanted to see both the exhibits – the L’Art de l’Automobile, Chef d’Oeuvres de la Collection Ralph Lauren, and the Hussein Chalayan retrospective. The latter is on ’till November, but the cars are buzzing off on the 28th August so it was last chance saloon.

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(Mr Lauren’s 120 – one 8 factory models.)

I shuffled into line in a right old grump, but it actually only took 20 minutes or so to clear, and was well worth the wait, as I got to see both exhibits, which seemed surprisingly uncrowded, given the melee outside. There are seventeen cars in total, gleaned from Mr Lauren’s much larger collection, all, as far as I could tell, at Concours standard, and all being drooled over by men who seemed to lose the power of speech in their presence.

It’s not what I would call an imaginative curation. (If I was asked to put together  a group of cars most people would like in a collection that spanned the last century I can guarantee that these would be all in it. And I’m no expert.) But the chance to see them all in one place shouldn’t be missed. And not just by car lovers: these cars are things of sheer beauty, worth admiring by anyone.

Two of my favourite cars are there: the Jaguar XK120 – I’ve driven one of these on many occasions, and it is always hands down a glorious experience. There’s also a Gullwing Mercedes (the 300SL), which fights it out with the 280SL as the car I actually want in my imaginary garage. Altho, upon reflection, I guess the 280 would win, as the Gullwing isn’t what I’d call practical for car parks.

Then there’s four 250s, including the Testa Rossa from ’58 (hard to believe this car is 50+ years old), and the GTO on the right:

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And this Bentley Blower from 1929.

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Then I got roundly told off for taking photos and retired my camera for the rest of the exhibit. Anyway, I urge anyone in Paris to get yourself there quick: only five more days before it closes for good…

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