There is one thing that makes Rolls-Royce more British than any other. It is not the Spirit of Ecstasy, the unmistakeable RR branding or the iconic ionic radiator. It is the fact that there is an umbrella hidden inside each door which upon retrieval allows you to get the picnic set out of the back without getting wet. There can be few things more consciously formed for and by the British psyche.
The Saatchi Gallery is currently playing host to ‘Inside Rolls-Royce’ an exhibition detailing the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into each car. It’s an interesting gesture to explore a brand through artistic interpretation, though where the marketing stops and art begins is anyone’s guess. But if you can park your semantic concerns at the door this exhibition has much to offer, not least in providing an insight into the level of quality the company demands in its products.
Beyond the machismo of big engines and fun but gimmicky driving games, the exhibition genuinely succeeds in inspiring both artistic and engineering appreciation. The wood panelling displays are exceptional (each one takes an expert team almost a month to make), as is the quality of bespoke stitching in the leather upholstery.
Rightly Rolls-Royce are proudest of their ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ installation: an interactive digital piece pixelating participants into over a million dancing embers of light. I spoke with the creator who told me he how happy he was the piece had come to fruition. The technology and equipment required do not come cheap and until Rolls-Royce commissioned him he had only been able to offer conceptual visions.
Like so many of their own customers, Rolls-Royce had gone to an artist for a piece of bespoke engineering and received a quite magnificent creation. Putting that fact on display to the public is no bad thing.