Posts Tagged ‘Classic Cars’

WOW! . . .

May 24, 2011

. . .  stands for ‘World of Wearable Art’ – it’s a museum of clothes in which theatrical costume meets Lady Gaga.  And for some imponderable reason, all this shares space with a Museum of Classic Cars.  The style is wonderfully surreal and joky.

outside the museum

I was a bit dubious, not really being into fashion.  But the first sight of the museum was promising. The car appears to float on water –

this improbable creature reigns by the entrance

the labels are lovingly detailed

This tells us that the glamorous white beauty is an Excalibur.


Model              Four door touring sedan.
Year                 1988.
Engine             350 Chevy V8
Car stylist Brooks Stevens designed the first Excalibur as a show car for Studebaker, using an Avanti engine and a Lark chassis.  When Studebaker pulled the plug on the project, even though the car had been a huge success at the show, his sons decided to set up their own company to produce the neo-classic which was originally based on the 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK sports car.
. . . a Chevrolet rather than a Studebaker power unit, and all production Excalibur cars have been fitted with Chevrolet Corvette engines, though the Studebaker chassis was retained until 1970.

So it seems as if it’s ‘classic’ in a fairly modern interpretation of the term.  (There’s more on the sign, if you care to enlarge it and read on.)
To my great delight, you are allowed to sit in some of the cars.  Memories of childhood: the smell of leather upholstery, the satisfying complex crunch of the doors closing – part sound, part sensation.   Like a little kid I played at driving – moving the gear stick, holding the wheel, pressing the pedals in.

There was a De Lorean (dolled up as the ‘Back to the Future’ car’), a thirties gangster car (with fake shotgun holes), a ‘before restoration’ example which made the gleaming beauties even more impressive – and too many more to name.
There was also an abandoned black backpack by the entrance door.  I thought – here I am in a temple to American wealth and consumerist display – and there’s a lonely bag just next to me.  But then again, I am in New Zealand.  All those railway station and airport announcements about ‘unattended luggage’ had their sway: I could phone the cops and have it eliminated in one of their ‘controlled explosions’.  Instead, I accosted some mild individuals, just a little way further around the room, who looked glazed.  Next I found a good-looking young man with a tripod, taking sophisticated photos of the cars – yes, it was his bag.  He was amazed to hear that he was doing sinister and scary things with it.  And slightly amused, too, to find the modern world impinging on him, borne by a grey-haired worrier-type.  “We are in Nelson,” he pointed out.  “Not many extremists here.”  I was only slightly abashed – after all, even if there is no threat, making people nervous should perhaps also be avoided.
A tantalising selection of random bits of three different vehicles, and some unreadable labels.  My childish technique of non-composition at work again, I guess.

this one is called a 'Commander' - that's a dummy standing next to it.

All this, and I was less than halfway round.  G. was waiting for me outside – how much can one really try a hosts’s patience?
The WOW! really is amazing – and more and more convincing as you work your way around through it.  The centrepiece is a video screening of the fashion parades that have displayed these pieces over the years – but they are more like athletic/gymnastic/dance shows.  Quite stunning and amazing.  Many of the costumes perform (or represent) ideas derived from myth – animal legends, bird myths, Maori and other cultures – all feature here and are interpreted in extraordinary and challenging ways.

Eos - a bird god

The displays are static – you need movement as well, really, to see how they worked when they were new and fresh.  I couldn’t resist buying a copy of the DVD for my mother, who loves art.

Ornitho-Maia (bird mother) is made of leather - one thinks of Boudicca, or maybe of Britomart again.

Amazingly, the gift shop also sells little bits of the Ornitho-Maia.  It’s like a talisman to have something tactile like that to keep – but how can they possibly do it?  Maybe the designer made a lot of spares? It’s a wonderful small gift shop: full of variety, interest and good taste.

luminous costumes, circling the dark

You are allowed to take photos of the cars but not of the costumes – but I only noticed the sign as I left (having entered in the wrong direction, and exited through the entrance door).  (I must have been fairly disorientated that day). So I had already taken lots of photos.  Anyway, I mentioned this to the lady behind the desk, and she said it was OK.  I don’t know how moral it is to put them up here – but maybe it will bring more visitors to the Museum, rather than fewer. Here are some more:   http://www.worldofwearableart.com/category/image-galleries/winners/2008-winners  The annual fashion show of Wearable Art became so popular that it started to swamp Nelson with visitors, and had to be moved away to a larger venue – (possibly Auckland?) – but the Museum remains.


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