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Forget Monterey's Concorso; Music City's Frist Center is this year's hottest spot to see Italy's finest forms

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On: Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 9:20AM | By: Andrew W Davis


Forget Monterey's Concorso; Music City's Frist Center is this year's hottest spot to see Italy's finest forms

You think you're ready for it, but then it happens:  She—the gorgeous, curvaceous, fantasy-fueling she of your wildest desires—is right there in the room with you! Nothing you've  ever  seen her in can prepare you for just how perfect she looks in real life. And now, at long last, you have been given a chance to approach her and live out your dream of spending one-on-one time with this finest of God's most incredible creations.

If you're lucky, your body will remember to keep your mouth shut so the drooling you can feel coming on will stay where it belongs as you inch your way through the madding crowd until you're face-to-face with this ultimate object of your desire. And then, as you see her sitting there, more beautiful and sexier than anything tangible has the right to be, all you can think to do is say a silent prayer that you can stay in this moment until the end of time, staring at her to your heart's content without the fear of having the cops called on you.

One down, 18 (or 21) to go...

That's right, folks: Until Oct. 9 you can save the 30 years and gajillion air and road miles it took me to see these 19 expressions of Italian automotive art with a single trip to Nashville, TN's Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

[Oh, and they have three motorcycles as well, if that's your thing. But it's not mine, and as this is my article, I'll never speak of them again.]

Called “Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945-1975”, this installation features some of the finest four- (and, admittedly, two-) wheeled vehicles from a surprising variety of manufacturers which all share the fact that they don't look like bloated blocks of balsa wood, thanks to the clothing created for them by the styling artists seemingly endemic to a surprisingly small number of Italian design (and construction!) houses.

Not to take anything from the “typical” roster of cars created for the usual Carrozzeria-commissioning suspects—like every Italian manufacturer ending in a vowel—that are well-represented here, but some of the more interesting (read: outlandish) cars on display are actually of American origin, ranging from the fantastical Jetsons-ish '55 Chrysler Ghia Gilda to the STILL-darn-near-production-ready-looking '63 Chrysler Turbine Car.

As a born-and-raised Californian (San Jose, represent!), I never had to travel very far to see many of these cars (like the appropriately-named “BAT” trio of 1950s Bertone styling creations as they were part of the Blackhawk Collection that was just a less than two hours north of my house). And, sure, this automotive journalism gig offers lots of opportunities to explore all manner of museums and private collections. But for the overwhelming majority of them, each of these is limited to what they have "in stock" rather than having a car market cross section that offers something for everyone.

For that kind of show you're pretty much limited to paying through the nose to visit Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and the like, where you stand cheek-to-jowl with God knows who in whatever weather shows up that day without any guarantee that the car(s) you hoped to see would even be there.

Well, thanks to the Frist—and Guest Curator Ken Gross—you'll get to see an incredible roster of automotive royalty all under one roof, and all it takes is getting yourself to Nashville. Oh, and the best part? You can actually drink in each car's beauty without the bulletproof glass enclosures that usually block your view (and your camera's) in "regular" museums.

Seriously! We're not talking Lenin's Tomb here; these beauties are "plinthed" in such a way as to let you view them unfettered from multiple angles. And so that you're not the loudmouthed knowledge-free knob everyone hates hearing at car shows, each machine comes with a placard that explains the vehicle and how/by whom it came into being.

[And as a bonus for all you history buffs, this entire exhibition was created not as an excuse to show you some shiny sheetmetal—not that there's anything wrong with that—but to show how these cars fit into the overall recovery of Italy itself post-war and how they helped it transition into the world-class center of style and fashion that it is today.]

And now for the elephant in the room. I'll admit that Nashville wouldn't have been among my top 50 guesses as to where a show like this would be held. Heck, it took various Amy Grant-related events to get me to Nashville—all three times—and were it not for them (and her), I doubt I'd have even set foot in the entire state. I mean, if you don't care for country music, what does the place have to offer?

A lot, as it turns out. Nashville is much more these days than just Music Row, the Ryman, and the “Batman building” (inside joke for the win!), even if you don't count the Frist and fact that they've collected the finest fleet of curvaceous Italianate confections ever under one roof. So find out what your significant other wants to experience on their summer vacation and show them how they can do it on the (relative) cheap by centering their trip in Nashville instead of the usual options found on either overcrowded coast.

And after you've "enjoyed" everything they wanted to experience, you can—with the proper amount of surprise in your voice—mention this "Bellissima thing" you "just" discovered and which you're sure you'll both enjoy as it's not yet another of the innumerable "cars-only" shows or collections you've dragged them to countless times, but an honest-to-God fine-art museum that's ALSO hosting all manner of non-car artistic exhibits at the same time. They can spend the day there without seeing a single car while you go comatose from the overdose of sensuously-sculpted sheetmetal you concocted this whole plan just to see.

[Or just show them the photos and videos of what the Frist has on hand and let the cars' curves do the talking. It was more than enough to make you want to sell your soul to go to Tennessee, and something tells me those images will work their magic on them, too...]


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