Morton Street Partners: At last, a true celebration of cars as art at NYC’s latest gallery

Written by Shayan Bokaie , Photography by Shayan Bokaie and Glen Allsop

Apr 21, 2022

The day has come—cars are finally, decisively, and officially art. For enthusiasts, though, they sort of always have been. For critics, on the other hand, it hasn’t always been so conclusive. The automobile’s primary capacity as ‘function’ has sometimes polarized opinions about their place in engineering or design versus pure artistic expression. In today’s ever-transforming world of NFTs, digital mediums, and a parallel universe of overlapping interests, the collision of the art and car world in a formative conversation—and for someone to lead it—is long overdue.

MSP co-founders Tom Hale and Jake Auerbach at their new gallery in West Village

New car companies seem to strive for this, grasping at fashion and art collaborations under the banner of improving brand awareness, but results inadvertently feel lesser—missing the mark to celebrate a moment of creators coming together on a single canvas. But what about in the world of classic cars?

Cars, like art, tell a story or make a comment on the era they represent. Purpose. Movement. They feel. They smell. We can touch, hear and use this art.

Enter Morton Street Partners: a young triumvirate of specialists Tom Hale, Benjamin Tarlow, and Jake Auerbach who utilize their new gallery space in New York to bring the worlds of art, fashion, and automobiles together—once and for all.

Tom's daily driver, a Citroën CX

A teaser of their new venture was present at Monterey Car Week last year, where they debuted the impossibly rare Monteverdi 650 hai F1 at The Quail, signaling they have little interest in the market’s game of musical chairs for the usual suspect cars like the F40 or Countach. Morton Street Partners are here for the deep cuts.

Creating a market for low-production or one-off, often obscure, vehicles is no easy task. Neither is wrangling these highly opinionated crowds and the markets that follow them. But co-founder Tom Hale believes their distinct eye for unique cars that will transcend both communities is what sets them apart from other purveyors who speak of the connection to art as a secondary consideration.

Feature: Morton Street PartnersFeature: Morton Street Partners

Photographed by Shayan Bokaie

“I saw car collectors. I saw artists. Fashion designers. But I didn’t see a space which married them and respected them equally. People are hungry for these worlds to collide effectively. This challenges the norm and nobody has told this story as respectfully as we’re trying to tell it,” Tom explains.

NYC has seen it all. When you open your doors, either NYC comes in or they don’t.

Unsafe at Any Speed

Their conceptual debut is the Unsafe at Any Speed exhibition curated by famed art writer, dealer, and mega-car guy, Kenny Schacter which is currently on display until May 8th, 2022. The exhibit juxtaposes artwork from 40 artists from around the world with cars like a one-of-ten Citroën Mehari finished in see-through ABS plastic and the transportation study vehicle, Z Car I by Zaha Hadid.

Grand opening night saw a line out the door and around the corner. Conversations expressing both admiration and education between the artwork and automobiles were continuously overheard, indicating that Morton Street’s recipe is showing promise on first taste.

MSP co-founder Benjamin Tarlow and exhibit curator Kenny Schachter

While the first inning shows MSP on top, Tom reminds us they’re just getting started, “NYC has seen it all. When you open your doors, either NYC comes in or they don’t. You hope the response is positive and people understand what you’re trying to share with them. Our gallery was packed within minutes of the Unsafe at any Speed debut, which was the encouragement we needed that we’re onto something. The curiosity was overwhelming. The energy level was high.”

Cars & art have entered the group chat

MSP will partner with artists and curators to use the Morton Street gallery to exhibit work, while weaving cars into themed narratives. "Our space gives a voice to curators, and by extension to the artists and designers who encompass it. Our role is to include cars in the conversation. How they tell that story is innumerous—cars are a choice. Cars, like art, tell a story or make a comment on the era they represent. Purpose. Movement. They feel. They smell. We can touch, hear and use this art. We're here to host the conversation.”

Photographed by Shayan Bokaie

The impact for the car market

This is good for cars. It really is. Prices for art can be astronomical, Foremost, it pulls interesting cars into a different conversation with a new audience. Preservation is also another anticipated outcome here. Some of these esoteric yet significant cars don’t have the typical ‘Sunday drive’ enthusiast appeal, making them more attractive to see and learn about, but less attractive to own.

Morton Street’s hypothesis changes this. It creates an avenue to reincarnate cars that might otherwise be forgotten as art, while constructing a space for appreciation in perpetuity. Owning a limited-edition see-through Citroën Mehari may not scratch the itch for the perfect two-car solution, or fit the theme for a mega hypercar collector. But, it may indeed be the perfect installation for an art critic crazy about French pop art.

Feature: Morton Street PartnersFeature: Morton Street Partners

Photographed by Shayan Bokaie

Ultimately, both worlds have a lot to learn from each other. MSP exists to bridge that gap, and we’re along for the ride.

More about Morton Street Partners

You can find out more about Morton Street Partners by checking out their website and by following them on Instagram (@mortonstreetpartners).

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