The Coupe De Ville holds a unique place in the American psyche. Introduced in 1949 by Cadillac, the car was among the most popular models sold between the 1950s and 1970s, sought after for its futuristic styling and sumptuous interior. It appeared on an Andy Warhol silkscreen in the 1960s and featured prominently in The Godfather. Discontinued in 2005, the Coupe De Ville remains an enduring symbol of the midcentury American dream.
Yet for all the Coupe De Ville’s novel iterations over the decades, none have been as eye-popping as the one borne out of Kenny Scharf‘s wild imagination. In 2005, the artist converted a 1960 model into the Astro Cumulo Uber Express and rolled it out during Miami Basel 2006. Like a mobile party machine, the souped-up car is festooned with cosmic doodles, pop-culture references, and playful characters—a celebration of good vibes and good cheer.
With an estimate of $400,000–$600,000, the art car is set to lead Heritage’s Modern and Contemporary sale on May 23. Originally commissioned by a collector familiar with Scharf’s “car bomb” works—cars emblazoned with his signature doodles—the is in mint condition, according to a spokesperson, with only 5,434 miles on the odometer. Scharf himself touched it up before the auction, which also features works by Wayne Thiebaud, Hugh Auchincloss Steers, and Chilean artist Roberto Matta.
To craft the vibrant vehicle, Scharf scoured thrift stores to find pink plastic Easter Island heads and a green dinosaur as the car’s hood ornaments, a tiara for its roof, and seashells and action figures to decorate its interior. A working turntable and disco ball fill out the trunk. Scharf thus transformed a motorized design landmark into a work of art, covering every inch with his trademark whimsy. He rejected cultural homogeneity in favor of personality and nonconformity, while respecting the original design of the Coupe De Ville, an iconic American automobile.
“This Cadillac has been in storage for the last 15 years,” said Taylor Curry, Heritage’s Director of Modern & Contemporary Art. “It’s the first fully customized car to appear for public sale and undoubtedly the most significant Kenny Scharf work to be offered at auction. Its bold design, vibrant colors, and details are a testament to Scharf’s unparalleled creativity and artistic vision.”
From the beginning of his career, Scharf has embraced a playful maximalism, cartoonish figures, and psychedelic imagery in his paintings, murals, and sculptures. He was a key figure in the East Village art scene of the 1980s, alongside Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. His work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries around the world, including MoMA, the Whitney Museum, and Centre Pompidou in Paris, and he has participated in group exhibitions including the Venice Biennale.