The Citroën DS is an avant-garde icon. Designed by Flaminio Bertoni, an artist and sculptor of genius, the vehicle remains a source of inspiration for a number of contemporary artists.
Voted “Best World Design Object of the 20th Century” in London in 1999, the near-mythical DS went on to celebrate its 50th birthday at the International Cotemporary Art Fair (FIAC) in 2005. The Citroën-organised exhibition, “The DS is a Work of Art”, once again showed the artistic dimension of the automobile. The FIAC show featured a few of the countless artworks inspired by the DS, notably pieces by Arman and Orozco.
The latest artist to be inspired by the DS, Chico Mac Murtrie, has created an original, technological work that emblematically represents Citroën and its values. Presented at the Paris Motor Show, “Totem-mobile” illustrates the successful marriage of art and automobile using unprecedented levels of technology.
Citroën has always been an innovative carmaker, focused on research and creation. The Marque’s approach transcends the purely technical and industrial, making each Citroën vehicle much more than the sum of its automotive parts.
In line with this approach, Citroën is showcasing a creation by the US artist Chico MacMurtrie at the Paris Motor Show from 30 September to 15 October. “Totem-mobile”, named by the artist himself, will soon afterwards head to the Marque’s new showroom at 42, Champs Elysées.
New Mexico native Chico Mac Murtrie, 45, is famous for his robotic sculptures. His work focuses on giving movement to form. In 1992, he founded the Amorphic Robot Works group, for which he is the artistic director. This group brings together artists, engineers, designers and technicians.
One of his pieces, the “Foetus to Man” clock, adorns the wall of the Salle Concorde in Lille in northern France. Citroën first made contact with the artist in this city in 2004, the year it enjoyed the status of European Cultural Capital. The project for an original work representing Citroën and its values gradually took form following this initial encounter between the Marque and Mac Murtrie.
Mac Murtrie was inspired by the light-filled architecture and vertical flight of Citroën’s future showroom on his very first visit. He saw it as the perfect space for one of the “living” totems that have made his renown. Because the artwork had to spring out of an automobile, the totem, created in his Brooklyn studio, was given the name “Totem-mobile” from the start.
The artist took his inspiration from the legendary Citroën DS. This is because for him the DS is the “iconic European car”. And because he finds “its organic shapes, hydraulic suspension and ingenious mechanics are emblematic of the period”. And also “because this car finds an echo in the ‘low riders’ (cars customised to be as comfortably low to the ground as possible) that are part of my Chicano culture”.
The “Totem-mobile” is powered by precise, computer-managed machinery and features a hydraulic system, one of the highly innovative features of the DS. It looks exactly like the classic DS at the start, before the body parts softly separate in a dance that highlights the beauty of their forms. The entire sculpture rises up, gradually and majestically. Its maximum height is adapted to the architectural limits of the Paris Motor Show, and will be much taller when it moves to 42, Champs Elysées. At the end of the transformation phase, the DS, still easily recognisable, faces skywards like a rocket ready to roar into space.
The use the artist makes of remote-controlled robots places his work at the crossroads where man, machine and art meet. This is more than appropriate for Citroën, a brand that strives towards this same point. The Marque focuses on man by developing models that offer passengers pleasant living spaces, on machine by using leading-edge technology, and on art by adding aesthetic elegance, courtesy of its stylists.
Art and automobile go hand in hand in Citroën’s universe – and “Totem-mobile” will be at the Paris show and Champs Elysées to prove it.