Car of the Week: This 1960 Cadillac Was Transformed Into a Modern-Art Masterwork. Now It’s Up for Grabs.

Artists using cars as a metal canvas is nothing new. From a 1932 Ford Highboy with Von Dutch pinstripes to the multimillion-dollar art cars of BMW and the crushed-car sculptures of John Chamberlain, there is ample latitude for creative expression, however humble or grandiose. And when the two worlds of “fine art” and automobiles coincide, magic often happens.

Heritage Auctions’ upcoming Modern & Contemporary Art Signature Auction, on May 23, features just such automotive alchemy by artist Kenny Scharf. Born in Hollywood, Calif., in 1958, Scharf cut his teeth in New York City in the late 1970s, gaining serious acclaim the following decade working in the orbit of Keith Haring, Basquiat, and other then-outliers who have since become icons of the modern-art world.

Artist Kenny Scharf’s

Artist Kenny Scharf’s Astro Cumulo Uber Express is a reimagined 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville.

Heritage Auctions

With Scharf, the playful spray-can antics of street art come to mind, but there is a more sophisticated aspect to the so-called Lowbrow school of which Scharf is a prime exponent. The aesthetic sensibilities of West-coast pop culture frequently dominate, and the artist, who now lives in Los Angeles, pulled out the stops with his Astro Cumulo Uber Express. Commissioned in 2005 and debuted at Art Basel Miami in 2006, the 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville made quite a large splash, especially given the fact that it’s a gargantuan land yacht sporting tailfins only outdone by its 1959 predecessor, and certainly never since.

Cadillac was “the Standard of the World” in the futuristic, space-conquering era of tiki-torches and fondue parties, before Warhol’s cynical sneer turned the art movement a little dark with his Electric Chair series and portraits of communist dictators. Scharf’s Astro Cumulo Uber Express is anything but dark; rather, it’s an ebullient expression of joy that only tailfins and thrift-store flotsam can express.

An LP turntable and disco ball are among the eclectic embellishments that festoon the trunk of artist Kenny Scharf’s reimagined 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville.

An LP turntable and disco ball are among the eclectic embellishments that festoon the trunk.

Heritage Auctions

The artist spent about a month combing just such junk shops in search of objects with which to transform the Caddy, appropriating bits like pink plastic Easter-Island heads and a green dinosaur as hood ornaments, and a roof-mounted tiara to add a regal air. The capacious interior is festooned with seashells and action figures, while an LP turntable and disco ball occupy the trunk. In so many ways, Scharf seemed to be recalling the flying cars that children of the Eisenhower Era read about in comic books and talked about in school.

A detail of the dashboard in artist Kenny Scharf’s reimagined 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville.

A plastic dinosaur and action figure add to the dashboard’s otherworldly aesthetic.

Heritage Auctions

According to Heritage Auctions, the Cadillac is in “mint condition with only 5,434 miles on its odometer,” to be confirmed by the buyer and their art conservator—or perhaps mechanic. Certainly, Cadillac’s 390 ci V-8 engine—mated to an automatic transmission—makes the swanky two-door Coupe De Ville a long-legged cruiser that will gracefully comport the thirsty 19-foot-long monster to the local Dairy Queen, miniature golf course, or even the most opulent museum gala.

Artist Kenny Scharf’s

The car, which spans 19 feet, is claimed to have 5,434 miles on it.

Heritage Auctions

If, however, the successful bidder plans a longer adventure, they’d be advised to fill the 21-gallon tank—good for about 12 miles per gallon—before embarking on a drive. Whatever the destination, Scharf’s Astro Cumulo Uber Express is certain to attract attention from art aficionados and car enthusiasts alike, and has a top-end estimate at $600,000.

Ready to start summer in high gear? There’s still time to join Robb Report’s 2023 California Coastal Rally, June 4 through 8. For more information, or to register, visit here.

Click here for more photos of artist Kenny Scharf’s reimagined 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville.

Artist Kenny Scharf’s reimagined 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville.

Heritage Auctions

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