Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945–1975 – Quicksilver Q Crew
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Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945–1975

This exhibition at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts  in Nashville celebrates the visual dynamism and spirit of innovation characterizing Italian coachbuilt cars, concept cars and motorcycles produced during the post–World War II economic revival. Automotive authority and guest curator Ken Gross has chosen 19 automobiles and 3 motorcycles from private collections and museums that are among the finest examples of Italian automotive design, including vehicles by Alfa Romeo, Bizzarrini, Ducati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lancia and Maserati. With the ultra-rare Alfa Romeo BAT models 5, 7 and 9 from the 1950s and a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, this all-star assembly offers surprises for even the most knowledgeable car aficionados. These powerful and extraordinary cars exemplify the sexy and streamlined Italian design language that propelled Italy to the forefront of automotive design internationally.

With their startling, often sensual designs, Italian cars from the mid-century had an immense influence on the automotive industry around the world. The successful racing efforts of Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo ensured that Italian automakers dominated international competition. Lessons from racing were applied to the design of road cars and Italy’s auto industry helped lead an international styling renaissance. In 1954, Road & Track declared, “The Italian influence leads the automotive design world. It remains consistent, commanding, spirited and graceful.”

Exhibition Organization

Bella Berlinettas 1950 Cisitalia 202 SC 1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic 1955 Maserati A6G 2000 Zagato

Berlinettas: The BATs 1953 Alfa Romeo BAT 5 1954 Alfa Romeo BAT 7 1955 Alfa Romeo BAT 9

Styling Gems 1946 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S 1952 Lancia B52 Aurelia PF200 Spider 1961 Ferrari 400 Superamerica

Il Ultimo 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

Wedge-Shaped Cars 1955 Chrysler Ghia Gilda 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero 1966 Ferrari 365 P Tre Posti

Italian and American Excitement 1952 Cunningham C3 Continental 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car

Mid-Engine Marvels 1963 ATS 2500 GT 1968 Bizzarrini 5300 Strada 1970 Lamborghini Miura S

On Two Wheels 1957 Moto Guzzi V-8 1973 MV Agusta 750 Sport 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport


The WWII Aeronautics Connection Many renowned Italian auto designers looked to the aircraft industry for inspiration. A number of talented Italian designers and engineers worked in aviation and other non-auto related fields during WWII before going on to become well known for their innovations in automobile design after the war:

  • Giovanni Savonuzzi worked for Fiat Aviation before his auto industry efforts. So did Dante Giacosa. • Carrozzeria Touring (Felice Bianchi Anderloni) built aircraft bodies during WWII. • Enzo Ferrari manufactured machine tools before he built his own cars. • The decline of the Italian aircraft industry with companies like Reggiane/Caproni after the war meant that a number of engineers transitioned into auto engineering. • Walter Salvarani designed propeller gears at Reggiane, and used the same principles on gearboxes for Ferrari. With thanks to Ken Gross for this interesting information.

Exhibition Guest Curator Ken Gross has served as Guest Curator for many exhibitions of extraordinary automobiles in fine art museums, including: The Allure of the Automobile (High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 2010, and the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, 2011); Speed: The Art of the Performance Automobile (Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, 2012), Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles (Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, 2013); Porsche By Design: Seducing Speed (North Carolina Museum of Art, 2013); and Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, 2014, and Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2015).

Catalogue The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue published by Rizzoli.

Reciprocal Admission Discount Offer at Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum The exhibition Macchine Italiane: A Tour of Italy’s Motoring Spirit, featuring more than three dozen vehicles, including cars, motorcycles and bicycles will be concurrently on display at Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum from May 26, 2016, through May 22, 2017. Following up on the success of their 2013 collaboration during the run of the Frist Center’s Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles, the Frist Center and Lane Motor Museum will once again offer reciprocal admission discounts. Visitors to the Frist will receive 50% off all adult ticket prices at the Lane by showing a Frist Center admission ticket through May 22, 2017. Visitors to the Lane will receive the same discount offer at the Frist by showing an admission ticket from the Lane through October 9, 2016. Members of either the Frist or Lane will receive free admission at both museums when membership cards are presented. Car Club Sundays On select Sundays during the run of Bellissima!, car clubs will be able to drive their collectible vehicles to the Frist Center and enter the Frist Center parking lot at 11:30 a.m. before it opens to the general public. (The building opens at noon.) At noon, car club members can enjoy their pre-ordered boxed lunches in the Frist Center’s Rechter Room, and then be among the first visitors to see this one-of-a-kind exhibition when the galleries open at 1:00 p.m.

Car clubs wishing to reserve a Sunday are invited to contact Frist Center Scheduling Coordinator Emily Jenkins (615.744.3247 / to make arrangements for the group’s lunches, tickets and discounted parking. Groups of 10–50: $25.00 per person. The price includes pre-ordered box lunches and gallery admission for groups of 10 or more; limit one car club per Sunday. Download a flyer with more information about Car Club Sundays.  There are also opportunities to host more elaborate private events—receptions and seated dinners, for example. Clubs wishing to host such events are invited to contact Frist Center Special Events Director Karen Gwaltney (615.744.3322 / to discuss venue rental event details. Learn more about venue rental opportunities at the Frist Center.


Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945–1975 was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts with guest curator Ken Gross.


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