ARTIQ Reviews ‘Ferrari: Under the Skin’ at Design Museum

With Ferrari celebrating its 70th-anniversary last summer, it’s no surprise that an exhibition looking at the marque and bearer of the prancing horse opened in London. ‘Ferrari: Under the Skin’ recently ran at the Design Museum in Kensington and I was fortunate to spend a morning with the dozen or so machines that made up the exhibition.

On entering one is confronted with possibly the gem of the exhibition: the first production machine to wear the famous badge, 1947’s 125 S. Small, low, streamlined and sporting numerous banks of louvres, the V12 125 S articulated a design language that would be present in the 166 that followed and identifiable in cars rolling out of Maranello well into the fifties. As a graduate of the School of Industrial Design at CSM, for me the room following this provided the most interest of the entire show. Full-scale clay models and wooden moulds sat beside cases of engine components and body panels, each wonderfully sculptural and fascinating. All around the room, original design studies for numerous Ferrari models through the decades accompanied a video of engineers building the very J50 clay model that occupied the central dais.

Though not a member of Ferrari’s legion of die-hard fans, I wasn’t disappointed by the calibre of vehicles on show, with notable models littering the exhibition. From poster-child F40 to the culturally pervasive Testarossa (of Miami Vice and Wolf of Wall Street fame), there were examples from every epoch of the company’s history, including many garlanded racing machines. Supreme beauty among these and quite a lot more interesting Herr Schumacher’s 2000 championship car: the truly arresting Ferrari 250 GT ‘Sperimentale’, a Lapis coloured teardrop with a DIY wing which did incredibly poorly to be left off all the marketing material.

‘Ferrari: Under the Skin’ provided a glimpse into every element of the brand, notably impressive given the physical size of the actual exhibition. Displaying roughly a dozen cars throughout and curating a great many more artefacts, the Design Museum touched on not only the personal history and ethos of founder Enzo Ferrari but the design, aesthetic and engineering principles, processes and innovations that have and continue to give shape to the marque. As an avid sketcher I found that two hours flew by and that I was able to do a handful of decent drawings. More casual visitors may have found themselves at the gift shop rather sooner though, so I would only recommend this sort of thing to members of the public with a particular mechanical predilection and a fondness for the brand of self-aggrandising pomp associated with motorsport teams.

Alastair Heywood, Art Handling Technician, ARTIQ