Petersen announces new exhibits, sets 5-year targets

1936 Bugatti Type 57C Atlantic and a Rembrandt Bugatti sculpture | Larry Edsall photos
1936 Bugatti Type 57C Atlantic and a Rembrandt Bugatti sculpture | Larry Edsall photos

In keeping with its mission of being an educational institution as well as a car museum, officials of the Petersen Automotive Museum shared details at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance of upcoming exhibitions and of the museum’s five-year plan.

Of most immediate interest to those planning a visit this fall were details of an expanded BMW “art car” exhibit coordinated with the brand’s centennial; news that in addition to the Land Rover “art car” already on exhibit, the museum plans a much larger exhibition of vehicles painted by artist Keith Haring; and word that on October 23, a new major exhibit opens — the “Art of Bugatti” featuring not only cars created by Ettore and Jean Bugatti but art, sculptures, furniture and other works by four generations of family members.

Rembrandt's La Mere Malade sculpture and Ettore and Jean's cars
Rembrandt’s La Mere Malade sculpture and Ettore and Jean’s cars

The Petersen’s announcements were made as more than 200 of the world’s most outstanding motorized vehicles were being cleaned and polished and prepared for judging just feet away on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach golf course. But as he opened his remarks, Petersen board chairman Peter Mullin noted that an automotive revolution is taking place that promises to be as significant as the transition from horses to motorcars.
“We are on the cusp of a revolutionary breakthrough in a technology and design similar to the transition from horses to cars,” Mullin said, listing such things as autonomous cars and alternative fuel systems.

“Where we’re going,” he said, “we want to be part of tomorrow’s solutions.”

Thus the museum’s five-year plan to become not just a car museum that continues to showcase the automobile and its design as fine art, but to be a world-class cultural institution and a center for automotive thought that helps steer those solutions for tomorrow’s transportation.

With that focus in mind, Mullin said, the museum will launch “The Drivers of Change,” a series of educational seminars to consider the future not only of the automobile but of all transportation issues.

The museum’s news conference began with the showing of a video that talked about its educational commitment and “our responsibility to jump start” the minds of future generations of designers and engineers. The museum, which less than a year ago re-opened after a major renovation, already has been selected by several sources as one of the top family destinations in Los Angeles.

Families are flocking to the reinvigorated Petersen museum in Los Angeles
Families are flocking to the reinvigorated Petersen museum in Los Angeles

Expectations are that more than 400,000 people will have visited the revised museum within its first year, a figure double the museum’s best previous yearly count. Executive director Terry Karges noted that 43 percent of museum visitors have made at least one repeat visit since December 2015.

To further the museum’s appeal to families, the news conference concluded with the announcement of the new Bobby Rahal Family Gallery to open soon at the Petersen. Rahal won the Indianapolis 500 as both a driver (1986) and car owner (2004). His father, Mike, raced sports cars and his son, Graham, is an Indy racer and recently was married to Courtney Force, the winningest woman in Funny Car drag racing who also has a noted family history in motorsports.

Although Bobby Rahal lives in Chicago, he noted that he is a long-time member of the Petersen’s Checkered Flag 200 club and that his family’s sponsorship of the gallery underscores his belief in the museum’s vision.

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