Ken Marquis’ latest Landfillart conservation project was inspired by a Chevrolet hubcap
By Alice Yoo
As decorative ways to cover car wheels, hubcaps are known for their unique designs, and older specimens in good condition are highly valued on the antique circuit. Classic Chevrolet hubcaps can even fetch thousands of dollars. But now some of the older and rustier specimens have found a new life, thanks to Landfillart. For the organization’s latest project, artists from all over the world have transformed 1,041 pieces of rusted metal, taken from old automobiles of the 1930s through the 1970s, into “metal canvases.”
The founder of Landfillart, art dealer Ken Marquis, has ambitious plans for this project. While the first phase saw the completion of just 41 distinct works of art from 41 different artists, the second phase increases that number by 1,000. The acquisition of these hubcaps has already begun, and they’ve been cleaned and primed. We sat down with Marquis to ask him a few questions about this artistic and globally minded project.
Why did you start this project? What inspired you?
I had one of those “Eureka” moments: I was at a car show in August 2008 and picked up an old Chevrolet hubcap. Looking at its inherent artistry, I realized I could probably have some of my artist friends “repurpose” other beat-up hubcaps just like it and save them from the dump.
What is it about the hubcap that makes it an interesting design medium?
They’re round, not smooth. They’re made of metal, not canvas or paper. And of course these old ones are dented, rusted and, at a minimum, road-worn. Artists like a challenge.
What have you learned in the process?
I’ve learned that artists, for the most part, share a link that connects them to their environment and the wellbeing of our planet. Recycling and repurposing comes naturally to them.
What’s been the most incredible transformation, or the one hubcap that you love the most?
I have many favorite pieces. An artist in Idaho accomplished the largest hubcap transformation. Her completed project stands 7 feet tall and weighs 624 pounds!
Can you tell us what makes the Chevrolet hubcap unique or special?
Back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, automobile manufacturers retooled almost every year. The cars from one year to the next looked very different. If you look at a ’57 Chevrolet and compare it to a ’58, or compare the ’58 to a ’59, you see a substantial change not only in the automobile, but also in the hubcap design. Chevrolet designers were all about change, year to year. It shows not only in their cars, but also in their taillight and hubcap design. After all, a car is the sum of its parts. Chevrolet was a leader in artful change.
Not surprisingly, many participating artists have requested that I send a Chevrolet hubcap for their project since they had a Chevrolet as their first car. So the collection includes some great Chevrolet hubcaps from the 1940s through the 1960s. They are pieces of art in themselves.
What’s been the most surprising aspect of this project so far?
That it has become one of the largest art initiatives ever. We have more than 1,000 artists from every state in the U.S. and 53 countries working on one project.
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Alice Yoo is founder and editor-in-chief of My Modern Metropolis; a place where trendspotters and art enthusiasts come to connect over creative ideas—a must-visit culture destination. Follow her on Twitter @mymodernmet or @aliceyoo.