It’s incredible how precisely Wölfflin described the remarkable design of the fried-egg Porsche: “The painterly possibilities open up as soon as the line’s role as a marker of borders is depreciated. It is then as though every corner has suddenly been animated by a mysterious movement. While strongly articulated edging fixes the form to the spot and determines its appearance, it is the nature of painterly representation to give appearances a hovering character: form starts playing around; light and shade become an independent element, they seek each other out and combine with one another from peak to peak and trough to trough; the whole takes on the appearance of a restlessly swelling, endless movement. Whether the movement is flashing and powerful or just a gentle shivering and shimmering, it remains inexhaustible to visual perception.”
It doesn’t get any more extreme than this. The Porsche 996’s infrastructure not only resembles that of a Rembrandt, but also of a late Turner, even Pointillism. Once again, the transition between the windshield and the body is aesthetically significant for the style of the whole, because here it becomes impressionistic in the literal sense, one must even say literally pointillist. The trim, which was initially chrome-plated, then black, has now disappeared entirely, while the transition between the windscreen and the paintwork flows in a painterly manner, with increasingly thinner rows of dots printed on the edge of the windscreen, no longer recognizable as dots from a certain distance. Like Rembrandt’s etchings or Georges-Pierre Seurat’s tiny points, the windshield and bodywork are aesthetically equal.
So if you take Wölfflin’s aesthetics seriously, you have no reason to go to an art museum if you want to have an aesthetic experience. The same principles that apply formally to the images of art also apply to the design of cars – reason enough to finally put an end to any argument about whether something is art or design.