What aspect of contemporary life haven’t cars impacted? Industrial design and manufacturing. Fine art and popular culture. Mating and work habits. The ways we define our present and grapple with the future. The very pace and rootlessness of life as it has been lived by the three or four most mobile generations in human history. There are tire tracks everywhere.
All those miles—all those fumes—are the subject of the appropriately far-ranging exhibition “Cars: Accelerating the Modern World,” a suburban sprawl of a show at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. “It is not an exaggeration to say that there is no other object that has had such an immense impact on the past century,” write the co-curators, Brendan Cormier and Lizzie Bisley. “This extends from our experience of speed to the ways in which we make and buy products, and the very landscapes that we inhabit.... The car offers a unique case study for the power of objects and design decisions to change the world.”