May 27–October 9, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 30, 2016)—Opening May 27, 2016, at Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945–1975 marks an unprecedented gathering of rare and stunning Italian-designed automobiles and motorcycles in a museum setting. The exhibition celebrates the streamlined elegance, novel and powerful engineering, and seductive allure characterizing Italian coachbuilt cars, concept cars, and motorcycles produced during the post–World War II economic revival. On view only at the Frist Center through October 9, 2016, Bellissima! boasts 22 extraordinary vehicles from private collections and museums that are now among the most sought-after collector cars in the world.

Returning to the Frist Center after the 2013 presentation of Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles, automotive authority and guest curator Ken Gross has chosen 19 automobiles and 3 motorcycles for Bellissima!. Moving from one gem to another, visitors will experience the creative connections and brilliant design language that helped propel Italy to the global forefront of the automotive world. “While providing a reminder of the role aesthetics can play in our daily lives, the exhibition also shows design excellence as a force that can transform a nation, in this case one that had recently been humbled by war, but which never lost its love for artistic expression in all aspects of life,” said Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala. “Tied to an age in which graceful aerodynamics provided an optimistic language of the future, these vehicles are quite simply astonishing on both a visual and technical level.”

Highlights include the ultra-rare trio of mid-1950s Alfa Romeo Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnicas, known as BATs, whose curvaceous fins and tapered tails suggest the curving wings and bullet-like bodies of bats in flight. The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO is considered by design critic and exhibition catalogue contributor Robert Cumberford to be “the most desirable of all sports cars ever made.” The game-changing Lamborghini Miura, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a technical tour de force and as Ken Gross writes in the exhibition catalogue, “resembles a stiletto on cast magnesium wheels.”

Lesser-known vehicles in the exhibition will offer surprises for even the most knowledgeable car aficionados. The drastically slender 1970 Lancia Stratos’ mere 33-inch-tall wedge-shaped body has doors that open vertically rather than swinging outward. The futuristic, arrow-shaped 1955 Ghia Gilda, named for Rita Hayworth’s slinky character in the film Gilda, has an elongated hood, snug cockpit, pointy rear fenders and jet-like engine whine that evoke advanced aircraft design.

The motorcycles on display are the 1957 Moto Guzzi V-8 “Otto,” a bike revered for its exceptional speed and radical “dustbin” fairing concealing its 8-cylinder engine; a 1973 MV Agusta 750 Sport, widely considered “the Ferrari of motorcycles” for its race-bred handling, brash aesthetics and thrilling exhaust “music”; and the 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport that, as Gross said, “catapulted the status of the small Bolognese firm from interesting to legendary.”

Historical Background

The post–World War II economic revival in Italy, known as “The Italian Economic Miracle” (il miracolo economico), was a nationwide rebirth driven by innovation in the design of automobiles, architecture, fashion, and furniture. In Italy’s wartime economy, there was little demand for luxury vehicles, but when hostilities ceased, the country’s prewar passion for road and track racing rebounded with tremendous energy. “Wartime work in aeronautics helped Italian engineers and designers develop familiarity with aerodynamics, lightweight construction, exotic metals, and technologies such as multicamshaft high-revving engines and power-enhancing superchargers,” said Gross.

Events such as the Mille Miglia—a thousand-mile road race from Brescia to Rome and back—attracted competitors from across Europe and the United States. Italian cars fared well, inspiring new firms like Cisitalia and Ferrari to produce road-going vehicles that had the sleek, low-slung design and powerful engines of racecars. Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Lancia, Maserati, and smaller Italian carmakers followed suit, with carrozzerie (coachbuilders) like Allemano, Boano, Ghia, Pinin Farina, Touring, and Vignale building limited-production car bodies for Italian domestic manufacturers. American, British, and Spanish companies hired such carrozzerie to design streamlined bodies for their own markets.

Exhibition Checklist

Bella Berlinettas
1950 Cisitalia 202 SC
1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic
1955 Maserati A6G 2000 Zagato

Berlinettas: The BATs
1953 Alfa Romeo BAT 5
1954 Alfa Romeo BAT 7
1955 Alfa Romeo BAT 9

Styling Gems
1946 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Speciale
1952 Lancia B52 Aurelia PF200 Spider
1961 Ferrari 400 Superamerica

Il Ultimo
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

Wedge-Shaped Cars
1955 Chrysler Ghia Gilda
1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero
1966 Ferrari 365 P Tre Posti

Italian and American Excitement
1952 Cunningham C3 Continental
1955 Lincoln Indianapolis
1963 Chrysler Turbine Car

Mid-Engine Marvels
1963 ATS 2500 GT
1968 Bizzarrini 5300 Strada
1970 Lamborghini Miura S

On Two Wheels
1957 Moto Guzzi V-8
1973 MV Agusta 750 Sport
1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport

About Guest Curator Ken Gross

Automotive authority Ken Gross has served as guest curator for numerous exhibitions of extraordinary automobiles in fine art museums, including the Frist Center’s first auto show, Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles, in the summer of 2013. For 2016, Gross reprised Sensuous Steel for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston which presented it as Sculpted in Steel: Art-Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles, 1929–1940.

In 2014, Gross received the Automotive Hall of Fame’s Distinguished Service Citation, the Lorin Tryon Trophy at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Ken Purdy award (with Peter Harholdt) for the Sensuous Steel catalogue from the International Motor Press Association and the coveted Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award from the Motor Press Guild in Los Angeles. He received the Lee Iacocca Award and the IAMA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Along with exhibition catalogues, Gross’s 15 automotive books include Vintage Cars, Hot Rods and Custom Cars: Los Angeles and The Dry Lakes, So-Cal Coupe, Art of the Hot Rod, Milestone Hot Rods, The Illustrated BMW Buyer’s Guide, and Ferrari 250GT SWB. Gross co-wrote Rockin’ Garages in 2013 with Tom Cotter. He is also the writer of Behind the Headlights, an acclaimed SPEED/TV series.

Public Programs

Friday, May 27
Curator’s Perspective: Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945–1975 presented by Ken Gross, guest curator
6:30 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium
First come; first seated

After the deprivations of the Second World War, the world longed for a return to beauty and style. Italian automakers eagerly stepped in to fulfill consumer desire for fun and forward-looking cars that would fuel the dreams and aspirations of a generation of auto enthusiasts and designers. Join Ken Gross to explore the stories behind the designers, coachbuilders, and notable owners who made companies like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati household names.

Thursday, June 9
Curator’s Tour: Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance,1945–1975 presented by Mark Scala, chief curator, Frist Center

Meet at exhibition entrance
Admission required; members free

Bellissima! celebrates the visual dynamism and spirit of innovation that characterizes Italian coachbuilt cars, concept cars, and motorcycles produced during the post–World War II economic revival known as The Italian Economic Miracle. Join chief curator Mark Scala for a guided tour of the exhibition.

Saturday, July 23
Special Event: “Restoration Master Session” Presented by Tim Marinos and Mark Lambert at Vintage Autocraft, Lebanon, TN
9:30–11:30 a.m.

Vintage Autocraft
917 Carthage Highway, Lebanon, TN
$35 Frist members / $45 not-yet-members
Pre-registration for this event is required; seating is limited. Visit to register.

Visit the workshop of a museum-quality auto restorer and learn how contemporary craftsmen bring vintage Italian automobiles back to their original glory. Tim Marinos is a master restorer specializing in pre- and post-war European sports, touring, and race cars. Marinos has extensive experience restoring Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, and many of the other makes represented in the Frist exhibition. Marinos and renowned collector automobile authority Mark Lambert will discuss the cars currently being restored at Vintage Autocraft and some finished restorations. Registration opens June 1.

Saturday, August 6
Bellissima! Expert Panel Discussion Presented by Robert Cumberford, Winston Goodfellow, Ken Gross, and Donald Osborne
2:00–4:00 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium
$15 Frist members; $25 non-yet-members
First come, first seated

Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945–1975 presents some of the finest postwar Italian-designed and Italian-built automobiles. Discussing their styling and design nuances, engineering attributes, and famous owners will be Winston Goodfellow, author and photographer of Italian cars; Robert Cumberford, design editor and critic for Automobile Magazine and Sports Car Market; and Donald Osborne, “Etceterini” expert of the featured segment “Assess & Caress with Donald Osborne” on Jay Leno’s Garage. The program will be moderated by Ken Gross, guest curator of Bellissima! and an Italian car authority in his own right. .

Advance Ticket Sales
Beginning April 15, 2016, for the convenience of our out-of-town guests, a limited number of non-member tickets will be available for online purchase at, an initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Each ticket purchased for an adult carries a $1.50 convenience charge that benefits Visitors 18 and younger will be admitted free of charge, but must have tickets. Purchasers must download a voucher from and present it at the Frist Center for exhibition admission on the specific date for which the voucher has been bought. Tickets purchased through are non-refundable. To purchase your tickets, visit or

Reciprocal Admission Discount Offer at Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum
The exhibition Macchine Italiane: A Tour of Italy’s Motoring Spirit, featuring more than three dozen vehicles, including cars, motorcycles and bicycles, will be concurrently on display at Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum from May 26, 2016, through May 22, 2017, and the Frist Center and Lane Motor Museum will offer reciprocal admission discounts. Visitors to the Frist will receive 50% off all adult ticket prices at the Lane by showing a Frist Center admission ticket through May 22, 2017. Visitors to the Lane will receive the same discount offer at the Frist by showing an admission ticket from the Lane through October 9, 2016. Members of either the Frist or Lane will receive free admission at both museums when membership cards are presented.

Car Club Sundays
On select Sundays during the run of Bellissima!, car clubs will be able to drive their collectible vehicles to the Frist Center and enter its parking lot at 11:30 a.m. before it opens to the general public (the building opens at noon on Sundays). At noon, car club members can enjoy their lunch in the Frist’s Rechter Room, and then be among the first visitors to see this one-of-a-kind exhibition when the galleries open at 1:00 p.m.

Car clubs wishing to reserve a Sunday are invited to contact Frist Center Scheduling Coordinator Emily Jenkins (615.744.3247 / ”) to make arrangements for the group’s lunches, tickets and discounted parking. Groups of 10–50: $25.00 per person. The price includes pre-ordered box lunches and gallery admission for groups of 10 or more; limit one car club per Sunday.

There are also opportunities to host more elaborate private events—receptions and seated dinners, for example. Clubs wishing to host such events are invited to contact Frist Center Special Events Director Karen Gwaltney (615.744.3322 / ”) to discuss venue rental event details. Venue rental information can also be found on the Frist Center website at

Exhibition Credit

Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945–1975 was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts with guest curator Ken Gross.

Sponsor Acknowledgment

Presenting Sponsors: Barbara, Jack, Sara, and Richard Bovender
Platinum Sponsor: HCA Foundation on behalf of HCA and TriStar Health
Supporting Sponsor: CHUBB Insurance
Hospitality Sponsor: Union Station Hotel
Media Sponsor: Sports Car Digest
With additional support from the Tom Smith Family.

This exhibition is funded in part by the Frist Center’s Friends of Italian Art.

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Buddy Kite: 615.744.3351, ”
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, ”
High-Resolution Images Available

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About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Information on accessibility may be found at Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and to members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, Café, and Gift Shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling 615.244.3340 or by visiting

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