ART ON WHEELS

Ralph Lauren’s love of classic cars reflects a sartorial brand based on class and distinction and a belief that certain looks need never go out of style.

Recently, 17 of his more than 60 vehicles – housed in a museum-like garage at his Westchester County home – received an actual museum show, at the Louvre’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs, no less. Under the soaring white nave, fire-engine red Ferraris, green Jags and black Bugattis gleamed like jewels – or the palette of a Mondrian painting. Clearly, for Lauren, cars are a kind of moving art as the show’s title, “L’Art de l’automobile: Masterpieces From the Ralph Lauren Collection” demonstrated.

The collection includes models that date from the 1930s and names that evoke immediate recognition of automotive mastery such as Alfa Romeo and Porsche. A peek at the collection shows that Lauren is particularly interested in sleek lines. Each of the cars selected for the Louvre exhibit would’ve been right at home in the garage of Ian Fleming’s favorite Aston Martin-loving double-O.

Though Lauren does embrace a certain amount of classicism in his collection, he doesn’t shy away from newer stars in the vehicular constellation. His collection includes a 1996 McLaren F1 LM and a brand new Bugatti. And though they may be lovingly housed in WAG country, Lauren has not lost sight of the dictum that “Form Follows Function.”

As he noted in the fall issue of the Ralph Lauren magazine, “Cars – like people – live in motion. I wouldn’t be happy unless I was driving these cars, discovering their full potential.”

Still, the sensuousness of the automobile lingers.

In an interview with exhibit curator Rodolphe Rapetti, Lauren said, “I’ve always loved machines that are the product of someone taking his passion for building and using it to create beautiful shapes or sounds that give pleasure.”

The enveloping experience of the car, including its sounds, is something that is obviously important to Lauren. On the website that features “L’Art de l’automobile” – ralphlaurencarcollection.com/ – there is a feature that allows you to listen to the hum, purr, growl, rumble or roar of each of his cherished cars revving their finely tuned engines.

For Lauren these cars are alive and the experience of them is a partnership between a craftsman’s artistic work and the owner’s devoted admiration of the purity of a vision and its mechanical execution.

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