‘We view cars as works of art’: the rise of the luxury car gallery | Motoring

Imagine, for a second, you’re a billionaire who loves cars, and you’ve bought up a collection of vintage or limited-edition Ferraris, Lamborghinis and maybe the odd Bugatti or McLaren. But where are you going to put them all? It is, perhaps, the ultimate #richpeopleproblem.

You can’t park them in the street, obviously. Your garage is already full – and all the cars are so tightly packed that it’s hard to really show them off when your friends come over. Until recently the only solution was to store them in a secure garage or warehouse nearby.

But now architects are creating specially designed “car art galleries”, “car museums”, and houses and apartment towers built around cars so you can drive your $135m (£115m) 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé into the dining room or park it next to your indoor pool.

The cost of even a small car gallery starts ‘from £2m up’. Photograph: Garage Deluxe

“You wouldn’t keep a Rothko in the basement under the stairs – you’d hang it in pride of place with good lighting and space around it,” says Jonathan Clark, the founder of Garage Deluxe, an architecture practice that “design[s] luxury spaces for luxury cars”.

“We view cars as works of art in their own right, and believe they should be given as much thought as artworks,” Clark says. “But luxury car collections are [sometimes] crammed in leaky old barns. They should be kept in an environment where you can show them at their best.”

Clark, who also runs the more traditional practice Jonathan Clark Architects, said he founded Garage Deluxe to allow him to combine his two greatest passions: architecture and cars. He personally owns “a couple of Porsches, a Ferrari and an Alfa Romeo”, which he says helps him connect with his car-loving billionaire customers. “It is about creating spaces for beautiful cars to sit in a gallery-like environment.”

Luxury cars ‘should be kept in an environment where you can show them at their best’ – such as this bespoke garage – says Clark. Photograph: Garage Deluxe

Money, Clark says, is often of no concern to his clients which is fortunate as the cost of even a small car gallery starts “from £2m up”. Their privacy, however, is a paramount concern and Clark has signed gagging clauses with most clients meaning he can’t provide many details of projects he has worked on. “I went into a tiny bit of detail about one client with somebody else who wasn’t a client, but he’s in that world and he knew exactly who it was, just from me giving this tiny little snippet,” he says.

So Clark mostly only talks about the projects he has bid for but lost out on to a rival. The most painful one that got away was an “underground car cathedral” for a billionaire with 25 cars in a field next door to his house in France. “He wanted to do it in such a way that no one would really know they’re there,” Clark says. “We designed this double-height space with a mezzanine so you could chill out and entertain. What better way to look at your cars than from above?”

Clark designed the almost 3,000sqm space so the cars can be driven down a ramp and circle down into the basement. “It was very Thunderbirds,” he says. “It would have been a wonderful project to work on. It was quite minimalist, in the way that most art galleries are quite minimalist because you want to create a beautiful environment, but at the same time you don’t want to necessarily compete with what’s going in there.”

A vintage car is displayed on a turntable in a Garage Deluxe design. Photograph: Garage Deluxe

A British project Clark has in the works is a car display room next to a client’s underground swimming pool, so that he can look at his Ferrari F40 while doing his morning laps. “I imagine it’s quite good for entertaining and parties and things like that. It’s a different way of presenting a car.”

“There’s another one we’re looking at where you could be swimming in your swimming pool … [dive] down under the water and you’ve got a glass screen [so] you can see through to where the cars are under the pool.”

The garages also often include turntables, workshops, wash bays and space for teams of workers employed to maintain the collection – “people who are employed to look after the car collection”, Clark says. “If you’ve got 25 cars, you can’t just leave them – you need somebody turning them over taking them out for a little spin.”


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