The Art Car Museum is a private institution dedicated to contemporary art. It is an exhibition forum for local,national and international artists with an emphasis on art cars, other fine arts and artists that are rarely, if ever, acknowledged by other cultural institutions. The museum’s goal is to encourage the public’s awareness of the cultural, political, economic and personal dimensions of art.
The Art Car Museum, or “Garage Mahal” as many know it, opened in February 1998. It was founded as a not-for-profit arts organization by Ann Harithas, artist and long-time supporter of the Art Car movement, and James Harithas, currently Director of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas.
The Museum has its conceptual origins in the 1984 Collision show curated by Ann Harithas at the Lawndale Art Center. Collision unveiled Larry Fuente’s “Mad Cad” art car which has since been featured in museums and cultural institutions across the country. The Collision exhibition provid- ed enthusiastic fuel for the art car movement in Houston and eventually precipitated the Art Car Parade and the international Art Car movement.
The art car movement is influenced by the modern tradition in art emphasizing personal expression and a choice of imagery or subject matter selected from popular culture. The art car artist is a pioneer of a new image of the automobile, an image which in its diversity reflects fundamental changes in popular consciousness, changes based on the desire for greater independence and individual rights. All art cars are subversive and have in common the transformation of the vehicle from a factory-made commodity into a personal statement or expression.
The aesthetic of the Art Car Museum draws from a fusion of the traditions of fine, folk and public art. The Museum features the most imaginative, elaborate and artfully constructed art cars, low riders and mobile contraptions as well as revolving exhibitions of art by local, national and international artists of all media. In addition to curated exhibitions, a unique opportunity is provided through the annual open call show for the artistic community to voice their response, via their artwork, to a topic of importance presented by the Museum.
Often considered the ‘Art Car Capital’, Houston has the largest number of art cars of any city. Art cars are fine art essentially free of the conventions and contradictions of the marketplace and the art world. The Museum’s distinctive scrap metal and chrome exterior was created by car artist David Best and provides an imaginative indication of the extraordinary constructions to be found inside.