Last week, at the Geneva International Motor Show, Ferrari debuted its newest model, the “812 Superfast.” The Superfast revives an old Ferrari name from the 60’s, when the Ferrari “America” was updated to the “Superamerica,” and then to the “Superfast.” The new Superfast will not, contrary to a lot of sloppy news reports, be Ferrari’s fastest ever car, or the world’s fastest accelerating car, or even Ferrari’s fastest accelerating car. It will be extremely fast; it will accelerate to 60 mph in under three seconds, using an 800 horsepower V-12, which will no doubt be a spectacular engine. No doubt, the Superfast will be a spectacular car to drive. Unfortunately, unless it gets a new exterior, it will be a terrible car to look at it. The Superfast is super ugly.
More specifically: It looks a little like someone took a Corvette and squeezed it, the way you might crush an empty soda can. The Superfast is covered in dents and vents and creases, which serve to distract from its overall unappealing shape—which is something like a muscular door-wedge. It’s a design that would suit the economy coupe market—that is, cars directed at 18-year-old boys who want to do donuts after school. It’s a design that could have been drawn by Hotwheels.
Because the Superfast is super fast, red and shiny, and, of course, a Ferrari, people assume it’s good looking without giving it any thought. The way they see Michelangelo’s immature “David” and assume it’s a beautiful sculpture just because they keep seeing in on the walls of Italian delis. But as the eminent car journalist Jeremy Clarkson has pointed out, modern Ferraris tend not to be nearly as pretty as you’d expect them to be. In fact, in the last 10 years, Ferrari has debuted 9 completely new car models — and only one of them has been genuinely good looking (the 458). But the problem is deeper than that.
Contemporary art, by and large, is awful. It’s terrible. Contemporary doesn’t try to be beautiful (which is what art is supposed to be); it tries to be meaningful (and virtually never succeeds). Contemporary art is atonal music and unreadable poetry, and living Frenchmen being entombed in rocks without enough space to move. Beautiful novels are still written, and people still read novels, whereas the interest the masses once had in classical music, painting, sculpture and poetry has dried up completely (remember: it wasn’t that long ago that Robert Frost, Picasso, Giacometti and Glenn Gould were actual celebrities). People still buy sports cars; many more people would like to buy sports cars. Enough that sports cars remain culturally relevant art objects. And for the moment, they remain—by and large—intentionally beautiful. A bulwark of beauty in an ugly world.
The world’s leading art-car maker is Ferrari. No one else is close. Lamborghini and Aston Martin and Lotus and Porsche all make beautiful cars, but Ferrari is the gold standard. Ferrari is to sports cars what the Yankees are to baseball and McDonalds is to fast food. Ferrari is to sports cars what Apple has been to phones and computers for the last decade. Ferrari is the trend-setter and the trail blazer. Obviously, with new car models coming out much less frequently than new phones or new lines of clothing, it takes longer for bad trends to spread. But there are already dangerous warning signs. Aston Martin has also announced a new flagship car, the DB11, which will replace the thirteen-year-old DB9. The DB9 is, without question, one of the most beautiful cars of all time. In a hundred years, it will be on display in the Louvre. Realizing this, Aston Martin designed the DB11 along very similar lines—but with just enough new bulges and dents and flares to be both hideous and hopelessly vulgar. Is this the path we can expect all art-car-companies to take?
The modern-Ferrari blight is a disease that needs to be nipped before it spreads any further. Worldwide, Ferrari sells fewer than 10,000 cars every year. A boycott wouldn’t do much good. All I can suggest is a whispering campaign. Tell your friends: Ferrari is ruining modern art.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard