He is also a tireless collector of cars and motorcycles, and a stunning group of the latter is on display until 18 July in New York: 26 vintage Italian bikes from the 1970s, from manufacturers including Ducati, MV Agusta, Laverda and Magni. Parr talked recently about his collection, his passions and his propensity for failing to shift his cars into Park.
Brett Berk: You’re a producer, designer, gallerist, collector. How do all these things go together?
Stuart Parr: Passion and desire. I try to wake up inspired, and I guess all of my design, all my architecture, all my interest in all these things, started as a kid, with Matchbox cars and Corgis. You held them in your hand and rode them over surfaces and jumped and made noises like rrrrrrrhrrr, and I literally and truly think it boils down to that.
Le Corbusier and R Buckminister Fuller worked on automotive designs. Frank Lloyd Wright designed a car dealership in Manhattan. Even Mies van der Rohe designed a gas station. Have you ever toyed with the idea of designing a car?
And a bike. Everything. I would like to at some point. I’ve thought about buying a car and re-skinning it, like a classic coachbuilder.
Tell us about your car collection.
I have an Iso Rivolta, a 1962, which is the first proper driving car that Iso ever made. There’s prototype number one, which didn’t have an engine and no one seems to know where it is, but it was never a driving car. And then there was the Iso Rivolta prototype number two, and I own that car and it’s perfectly restored. It’s just a fantastic car, with a 327 Corvette engine and a great Giugiaro design.
And then I have an Iso Grifo. I’m in the process of restoring that. I just think it’s one of the most beautiful cars ever. And I have a [Ford] Bronco. It’s Bill Stroppe, which was like the Shelby Mustang of Broncos. He won the Baja 1,000 in a modified Bronco, so Ford did a limited edition series with him. And I just sold a Fiat Jolly, which I restored. And then I have one other car but I actually am selling it. It’s a 456 Ferrari, but it’s a Straman convertible, one of the few that he did.
What about a fantasy car? Something you’ve always wanted, no holds-barred.
It probably wouldn’t be a Ferrari Testarossa. The Ferrari 250 LM is one of my favorites, but I also love a 275 GTB. Or a Maserati Birdcage. But I like a lot of the weird cars. I love when they did an offshoot. You know, a Jaguar with a Frua body or a Maserati with a Frua body. And I love [Citroën] DS convertibles, or SM convertibles. Chaprons. There’s one for sale right now at Hyman Limited Classic Cars in St Louis. In gold, which I think is a fantastic colour on those cars.
What led you to mount this exhibition of your Italian bikes?
They’re just jewels. I love the Laverda SFC, which you know, riding that thing is like – it starts up like a tractor. [Laverda] was a tractor company. But it’s fantastic to drive. It handles beautifully. It was an endurance racer, so they were made to work. I drove the one that’s in the exhibition all winter. Once it’s above 36 degrees, I’ll drive.
That’s the rule?
Yeah. In the city, that’s what works for me.
It sounds like the bikes all see use, but is the exhibition more about sculpture?
It’s just motorcycle porn. [Laughs.] I did not set out to have a collection of ‘70s Italian bikes. It just turns out I created a really great collection. But it wasn’t like baseball cards, where I tried to get one of everything.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you in a car?
Probably the most embarrassing thing is just pulling up and not putting my car in Park. It’s happened a bunch of times. We got out of the circus, the Big Apple Circus, recently – me, my daughter and my girlfriend – and I was like, look, our car has just rolled into another car in the parking lot. Not horrible damage, but it was embarrassing.
The Stuart Parr Collection: Art of the Italian Two Wheel is on view in New York until 18 July.
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