Fiat 500 on display at Museum of Modern Art in New York...

Fiat 500 on display at Museum of Modern Art in New York in “The Value of Good Design” exhibition

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Fiat 500 F series
photo: FIAT

The Fiat 500 F series will be on public display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York for the first time. It will be a highlight of The Value of Good Design. That is an exhibition drawn from MoMA’s stellar collection of industrial design.

“500 is an icon of Italian style that never went out of fashion and that over the decades gained fans all around the world because of its key features and strong personality,” says Luca Napolitano, Head of EMEA Fiat and Abarth brands. “Since 1957, Fiat 500 has always brought colour and smiles to everyday lives on the roads of the world, becoming an ambassador of the ‘Bel Paese’ and an icon of style and design ‘made in Italy’.”

The model on display at MoMA will be a 500 F series, the most popular 500 ever. It was in production from 1965 to 1972. There were other versions, namely Sport, D, L and R, of the first generation. A total of more than four million cars were produced from 1957 to 1975. The car is a clear expression of form following function, a logical and economical use of materials. It is also a belief that quality design should be accessible to all. The development of inexpensive, reliable cars such as the Fiat 500  was essential for the motorization of the post-war European continent. The 500 embodies many of the principles that typified mid-century modernist design. It also connects it to themes in works throughout the Museum’s collection.

Fiat 500 on display at Museum of Modern Art in New York in “The Value of Good Design” exhibition

The Nuova 500 (a.k.a. the ‘Cinquecento’) was the work of designer and engineer Dante Giacosa. Its launch was in 1957. Giacosa, who joined Fiat in 1927, was responsible for many of the most important designs to emerge from the automaker during his 43-year career. They included the original 500 ‘Topolino’ and the later 500 ‘Nuova’. A compact city car with a rear-engine, the 500 was an economical car for the masses. Giacosa’s design maximized interior volume. The result was a surprisingly spacious interior that could accommodate four passengers. The standard-feature foldable fabric roof imbued this economy car with a sense of luxury while simultaneously reducing the amount of steel – a precious commodity at the time – necessary for the production of the car.

This undisputed success was followed up in 2007 with the launch of the new generation. Today’s 500 immediately proved highly successful worldwide. It won an impressive array of prizes, including ‘Car of the Year’ and ‘Compasso d’oro’.

The Value of Good Design features objects from domestic furnishings and appliances to ceramics, glass, electronics, transport design, sporting goods, toys and graphics

It will be on display from 10 February to 27 May, 2019. The exhibition explores the democratizing potential of design. It begins with MoMA’s Good Design initiatives from the late 1930s through the 1950s. These championed affordable contemporary products with good design. The concept of Good Design also took hold well beyond the Museum. Governments on both sides of the Cold War divide embraced it as a vital tool of social and economic reconstruction and technological advancement in the years following World War II, of which the Fiat 500 is a classic example.

The exhibition also raises questions about what Good Design might mean today. It asks as well whether there can be a transfer and redefining of mid-century values for a 21st century audience. Visitors can judge for themselves by trying out a few ‘good design’ classics still in production. They will also be able to explore how, through its design stores, MoMA continues to incubate new products and ideas in an international marketplace.

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