You don’t have to be a car lover to love cars. And at a new museum in Rhode Island dedicated to the art of gorgeous automobiles, there’s a lot to love.
The Newport Car Museum opened in Portsmouth in June, and is housed in a former missile manufacturing plant on 17 acres in front of the Raytheon Company. It has around 50 automobiles from the private collection of New York attorney Gunther Buerman and his wife, Maggie, founders of the museum, who also own a home in Newport. The cars span 60 years of design, placed in what can be called an artistic display of automotive history sprawled throughout 50,000 square feet of exhibit space that Gunther Buerman had gutted and turned into the museum.
“We had all these cars we’d collected,” said Gunther Buerman, founder and CEO of American Rock Salt Co., and a managing partner in a law firm of 250 lawyers, on the opening night of the museum in June. “I said to Maggie we should sell some or make a museum. She said ‘let’s do a museum’. And here we are.”
Buerman referred to the period of flourishing industrial design after World War II as “not unlike the sculptors and artists of the Renaissance Period,” with the designers’ passion reflected in automobile design from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, then 1990 to the present. Those eras represent the focus of the collection.
Here you’ll find Ford Shelbys, Chevy Corvettes, Chrysler Mopars and more. In the World Car category, there is a German-built BMW Z8 recreation of a 507 roadster that Elvis Presley owned, and a couple of Italian-built Lamborghinis, not to mention a 2011 Porsche 911 Turbo S, capable of going from 0 to 60 in 2.6 seconds.
There is a stunning collection of “fin cars” from post WWII when bright colors ruled the day on cars with iconic fin designs meant to replicate those found on rockets and jets of the day.
Throughout is art of a different type, namely mid-century modern furniture by American designing legends like Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll Bassett. Other quirky, fun items are an egg chair by Arne Jacobsen; the Bocca Sofa, representing Marilyn Monroe’s pouty red lips by Gufram Italy’s Studio 65; and the Joe Chair, inspired by Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio’s glove, by Italian designers de Pas, D’Urbino, Lomazzi.
“There is no greater manifestation of man’s extraordinary design creativity and mechanical ingenuity than the modern automobile,” say the Buermans on the museum site. “This museum celebrates some of that wonderful kinetic art, and the men, and women, who were instrumental in its creation.”
For information and events about the museum, visit www.newportcarmuseum.org
Photos by Paul E. Kandarian