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Exhibition: Getting under the skin of Ferrari

Car historian Andrew Nahum, curator of the new Ferrari exhibition at the Design Museum, tells Spear's just what makes the Italian marque so special, writes Cormac Rae

Ferrari: Under The Skin explores the marque’s history and evolution – with a strong emphasis on design – and includes spectacular artefacts such as the F1-2000, immortalised by Michael Schumacher and the stunning 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, which was driven by Steve McQueen at the height of his fame.

The project began after Nahum was contacted by a keen collector of Ferrari memorabilia, Ronald Stern , who wanted to share his fascinating array of early racing photographs of Enzo Ferrari with the general public. With the brand’s support, Nahum decided to create an exhibition that would celebrate Ferrari’s life and his legendary cars. The display exhibits a vast array of his early blueprints and car designs, concocted alongside his long-time collaborator Giaoacchino Colombo.

The exhibition also delves into the very intimate details of the design, creation and spirit of Ferrari, from its conception and evolution through to its current day computer modelled sophistication.

Highlights include the exhibition opener, a Ferrari 125 S – based on the first ever Ferrari and the only existing replica in the world; the 1961 ‘Sperimentale’ 250 GT - driven by Stirling Moss when he won the 1961 Daytona 500. There's also a Ferrari F1-2000 – the car Michael Schumacher drove to victory when claiming his third World Drivers’ Title — a true relic for F1 fans.


Q & A with Andrew Nahum


What did you try and achieve with the exhibition?

‘My hope is that we would surprise and interest people who didn’t know that much about cars, but also do the same thing with Ferrari lovers, the archival material from Ferrari and his family are of genuine novelty and serious interest to fans. Similarly, the techniques of design, which even car lovers might not completely understand have been fully explored and explained. We tried to square the circle and I believe we succeeded. ‘


Why did you include the film C'etait un rendez-vous, 1976?

‘The director owned a 275 SWB and he wanted to give the impression of a high speed drive through Paris at five in the morning, where he meets a girl at the hill of Monmarche. The reason the film is there is because it’s very much of its time; it gives you a window into the 60’s, when people like Steve McQueen and Mick Jagger drove them. Film directors and film stars were buying Ferrari’s because they encapsulated the glamour and style of the era and were also slightly transgressive. The film demonstrates what the Ferrari symbolised in that era: high performance, high art and high style.’


How was the exhibition received in Italy?

‘They loved it in Italy, when we finished exhibiting it in the Ferrari museum in Maranello we had to think carefully about the redesign for the museum here in London, mainly the practical aspects relating to the architecture and geometry of the space.’


Why should people come to see this exhibition?

‘There are a lot of special things here, the cars we have gathered together are all exceptional and they all have outstanding histories. Ferrari and automobile lovers have been pleasantly surprised by the range of cars on display. Visitors who are more passionate about design have been fascinated by the design process, we explain in some detail how clay modelling works and explore how the earlier wood modelling techniques developed. The relics are there too, the 1961 250 GT is an extraordinary work of art. There are many fantastic elements in the exhibition for a broad array of audiences; we’ve had a great response so far.’


Ferrari: Under the Skin is at the Design Museum, High Street Kensington, London until April 15

Cormac Rae writes for Spear's