Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas - Atlas Obscura
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Houston, Texas

Art Car Museum

At the "Garage Mahal" in Houston, car culture is about more than just driving.  

Some people wash and wax their cars, making sure that the finish is exactly as clean and shiny as the day they bought the car. The art car movement goes in entirely the other direction.

While those who create art cars are still concerned with how their car looks, they approach the car itself as a blank canvas on which to create a masterpiece. Armed with paint, glue, objects, and whatever else will stay stuck on a car that still needs to drive, the creators go to work.Often the folks that create these cars are not trained artists and still drive their creations (usually made from older or used cars) to work every day. Among the art car creations is a beloved style where many objects of one particular type have been glued on covering the entirety of the car’s exterior, such as cameras, corks, CDs, trophies and more.

In Houston, art car culture is a deep-rooted part of the city. Growing out of a long Houston tradition of outsider art, eleven art cars were exhibited alongside the Fruitmobile (the first of the Houston art cars made for auction) at The Orange Show in 1986. By April 1988, Houston art car culture was in full swing; when the first official art car parade in the U.S. took place, there with 40 cars participating and it was seen by over two thousand onlookers.

The Art Car Museum aims to make this art form available to be appreciated year-round. It opened in 1998 and remains the largest art car parade in the world. Known as the “Garage Mahal,” the museum was founded by artists James and Ann Harithas. Their collections include non-car-based art by Houston’s art car artists, as well as a “collection of cars, bicycles, motorcycles, roller-skates, and many other types of motorized and human-powered vehicles all decorated in various themes.” Among the best cars in the museum are Rex Rabbit, a giant rabbit-shaped car clutching a basket of eggs; Faith, by David Best, complete with a water-buffalo head in place of longhorns; and the giant roach-shaped “Roachster.”

Know Before You Go

The museum is free admission. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Please call in advance to accommodate large groups.

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