RM Auctions

The Art Of The Automobile: Sculptures In Motion

Federico Tibytt

A 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, sold for $14.5 million, is the most expensive car purchased at auction.

RM Auctions, a company specialized in the sale of motorcars, held in conjunction with Sotheby’s New York, a rare auction dedicated to collectible automobiles, which were presented as priceless works of art. Ferraris, Bugattis, and Cadillacs were displayed in the same space that just a few days earlier had hosted Andy Warhol’s record setting painting Silver Crash Car, which sold for $105 million. While many detractors criticized the experiment, the sale’s results were a huge success, reaching more than $62 million, a figure that exceeded by far the estimated $50 million that had been expected.

The Art of the Automobile
1956 Aston Martin DB 2/4 MKII.

Car collectors appreciate a vehicle not only for its performance, engine, functionality and rarity, but also for its design, aesthetic and historical value. Certainly, we assess the value of cars differently than we do works of art. But perhaps things are changing. Last November’s auction, titled The Art of the Automobile, was and indication that, in today’s market, motorcars are being perceived as artworks. The special auction featured 32 cars, two motorcycles and an array of motorsports-related objects.

The Art of the Automobile
1964 Ferrari 250 LM.

The RM event was a commercial success; in fact 11 of the vehicles sold reached a record price for their models. But, undoubtedly, the biggest moneymaker was a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, sold to an anonymous buyer— who was bidding by telephone —for a staggering $14.5 million.

This unique model built at Ferrari’s plant in Maranello, Italy, was designed by Carrozzeria Scaglietti, and is one of the survivors of the 32 copies of the 250 LM made that year, a production that includes the last Ferrari to win the 24 hours of Le Mans, the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

The Art of the Automobile
Lincoln Indianapolis Exclusive Study.

The fact that the 32 cars were offered at auction as if they were works of art was criticized by many purists, some even implied that the experiment was a failure because models such as the Lincoln Indianapolis Exclusive Study, designed by Felice Mario Boano, sold for only $1.55 million, when the estimated price was between a low of $1.8 million and a maximum of $2.5 million. Furthermore, the 1997 Ferrari F1 racing car and the 1941 Cadillac The Duchess limousine were not of interest to the participating public and finally went unsold.

Beyond these missteps, the remainder of the auction made history. Models such as a 1956 Aston Martin DB 2/4 MKII designed by Carrozzeria Ghia, or a 1955 Maserati Spyder A6G/2000 designed by Zagato, were sold under the hammer for prices that satisfied the organizer’s estimates and, in some cases, exceeded them.

The Art of the Automobile
1955 Maserati Spyder A6G/2000.

To offer industrial products as works of art could seem exaggerated to some. But for potential buyers, these vehicles could be displayed in museums around the world. The experiment conducted by RM Auctions will probably be repeated in the near future. Surely, car lovers will be able to enjoy, once again, magnificent “masterpieces on wheels”.

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