The Classicist: A Closer Look at Car Show Girls
All week we've been treated to gorgeous new cars from the world's leading marques at the Geneva Motor Show. In most of the pictures we also got a tantalizing glimpse of thigh, shapely arm or other anatomical fragment of the equally alluring models hired to show off the luxurious machines to best advantage. For most these women are a mere sideshow, a sort of added attraction, but for Dutch artist Jacqueline Hassink they're the main event. Hassink, who has received critical acclaim for her books and exhibitions that deal conceptually with issues of power and social relations, spent the past five years traveling to three continents photographing car show girls.
The resulting body of work from major car shows in seven different cities on three continents, including New York, Paris, Geneva, Tokyo, Detroit, and Shanghai, is collected in her new book, Car Girls (Aperture, $85). Hassink used these sites to reflect on "differing cultural values with regard to their ideal images of beauty and women." The series captures the moments during the women's performances when they "become more like dolls than individuals." The luxuriously produced book, limited to an edition of 1,500 copies, takes a subversively fun yet conceptually astute approach to examining "differing cultural values and ideal images of femininity as used to define corporate identity," and luxury car brands in particular.
"Car companies are global players who need to continually re-present themselves to local markets," Hassink notes. "Each year they show off their latest car models at extravagantly staged shows in major cities across the globe. The shows that take place in Detroit, New York, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Geneva, and Paris are the most important according to the industry. Less important are the shows in New York and Shanghai. At these shows, the auto manufacturers take great pains to distinguish their brands, but they all present their latest cars in the same way: with the help of female models. Essentially, the women become tools to present the corporate image in a very distinctive way." See the gallery for examples from Ferrari, Maserati and more.
Gallery: Jacqueline Hassink: Car Girls
Novelist and cultural critic Francine Prose has praised Hassink's Car Girls series for its ability to "make us rethink the association between auto and eros as if it had never occurred to us, and to see it newly in all its sheer outrageous strangeness." Hassink's work has been shown extensively at various international venues, and her photographs are in the collections of the Huis Marseille in Amsterdam, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among other institutions. She is a visiting professor in a number of programs, including the postgraduate photography program at the University of Art and Design, Helsinki, and at the Visual and Environmental Studies program at Harvard.
On Tuesday, April 7, just prior to the New York International Auto Show at the Javits Center, Dashwood Books on Bond Street in New York City will host a book signing and party for Hassink. The following Tuesday, April 14, the Aperture Gallery on West 27th St. will host a lecture and booking with her as well. Both events are open to the public on a first come, first serve basis.