Automotive Art Project – Featuring the N Collection

by James Page & Steve Rendle

As if the cars in Claude Nahum’s collection aren’t envy-inducing enough, now here’s a big splashy book showcasing 25 of them in the form of specially commissioned fine art to make you question your career (income) choices all over again.

Nahum is a well-known figure on the historic-racing circuit and he has certainly caused a stir, in a good way, on the concours scene with his recreations of important cars. If you are up to date on your European car manufacturers you will surely know that his father is a pioneer of the Turkish auto industry, which explains the younger Nahum’s interest in all things automotive (he is also an engineer) and why he is at the helm of a holding company with a wide-ranging portfolio of engineering, design, and marketing activities. While that is peripheral to the book, it ought to help in establishing that he is not just anybody with a bunch of interesting cars in the barn but someone who plays on a rather higher plane.

If you have good visual acuity you may have already spotted that there are 15 columns of images in 10 rows on the front cover. 15 x 10 = 150, that’s the number of full-page paintings in this book, accompanied by one full-page photo and one or two smaller ones per car accompanying the text for each. Writing duties fell to auto journalist James Page whose name you might recognize from Classics Monthly or Classic & Sports Car magazines and to motorsports writer/enthusiast Steve Rendle. Their one-page descriptions present highlights of the model and then drill down to particulars of the specific car shown.

A case of life imitating art. The Vaillante Grand Defi is inspired by 1960s comic book racing driver Michel Vaillant and the first installment of his adventures was entitled Le Grand Defi (1959).

So much for the basic facts of life. This publisher, Porter Press in the UK, has a sterling reputation for producing competent, well thought-out books. Ergo, everything that is in a book can be assumed to be there for a reason. Ditto for the opposite, right? This book leaves a few bits for people to puzzle out on their own. For instance, the Table of Contents lists each car; surely an astute observer will notice that in some cases there is more than one example of a model. So why do they not appear back to back? It’s not until you go through the book that you notice that the cars are sequenced in chronological order (1962 the oldest, 2015 the newest).

Then there’s the artwork, the raison d’être for the book. It is not identified by artist and only some of the artists are in the habit of signing on the front of the piece. Which means that unless you can recognize the ones that do not by their style, distinctive as it may be, you may be flying blind—or you are so clever that you extrapolate from the page that introduces the artists (in alpha order, it so happens) that, maybe, the artworks are shown in that same order? As indeed they are: Guy Allen and Yahn Janou on one spread, then Tim Layzell and Stéphane Grenet (Psyko), and lastly Anna-Louise Felstead and Jean-Jacques François. If this was intentional, what are the odds that this really works, for everyone? Well, it is our job to overthink things . . .

Anna-Louise Felstead’s “naughty” art (l) is as distinctive a style as is Jean-Jacques François’ who imagined a scrapyard “theme” for his 25 paintings here.

Guy Allen (l) leans more towards realism whereas Yahn Janou does soft lines in wispy watercolors. And the car . . . something you don’t see much: a 1964 Lang-Cooper II aka Super King Cobra.

The book should come with a warning label: XXL. At 16″ long it’s among the widest being made and not an easy thing to shelve once its coffee table tour of duty is over. Obviously, handling a 2.5 ft long book requires a leisurely approach but who wouldn’t take their time and linger over a splendiferous book such as this? The only thing you do have to be quick about is snapping up a copy: only 500 numbered copies of the standard version exist, and only 50 of the £550 Collector’s Edition (ISBN 978-1-913089-39-9) that has a special fabric book cover and matching slipcase and is autographed by the six artists.

The artists’ styles range from hyperrealism to cartoonish exaggeration and everything in between. Whether you are an artist or a car person or a bibliophile there’s so, so much to discover and enjoy here.

This is the last page of the book. The artist is not identified but by now you’re probably expected to recognize the style. How about recognizing the car in the foreground? (Lola) If you don’t notice that all the cars in this painting have something in common you’ll have to study the book all over again.

Automotive Art Project – Featuring the N Collection
by James Page & Steve Rendle
Porter Press, 2021    [In US: SCB Distributors]
208 pages, 150 paintings, 75 photos, hardcover
List Price: $180 / £100
ISBN 13: 978-1-913089-26-9

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