Q&A: Automobile Curator Brittanie Kinch Shares Why Cars Are Her Muse

The art historian was a driving force behind the Petersen Automotive Museum’s latest exhibit, the Porsche Effect.

Brittanie Kinch Petersen Automotive Museum Porsche Brittanie Kinch

Last month, the Petersen Automotive Museum unveiled its latest—and perhaps its most ambitious—exhibit, the Porsche Effect. The showcase is the most comprehensive gathering of historic Porsche cars ever assembled outside Germany, owed in large part to curators Brittanie Kinch and Petersen’s creative director, Brian Stevens.

During her tenure with the Scenic Route, a design and fabrication exhibition and construction company, Kinch has channeled a unique perspective through her involvement with a number of inspired automotive collections. Muse had the opportunity to speak with Kinch about her professional journey and her latest endeavor for the Petersen.

How did you come to work with the Scenic Route and the Petersen Automotive Museum?

I received a dual degree in studio art and art history at Barry College, followed by a master’s in art history at Georgia State University. I studied briefly in Italy at the Studio Arts International, where I cultivated a love for collections. A couple years down the road, I began working with car collectors, including Peter Mullin (who is on the board of directors for the Petersen Museum). My first project for him was an exhibit called La Vision de Voisin, which covered the work of aviator and automotive manufacturer Gabriel Voisin. The project taught me that when you look at cars, these beautiful pieces of sculpture, you also find an incredible human story behind each car. That story is worth telling.

I was brought on at the Scenic Route seven years ago to work on the National Museum of the United States Army. Through that experience, the Scenic Route engaged me in other museum work, including projects within the car world. In fact, cars have always been a part of my life. My father is a Chevy guy through and through; he still owns a ’79 Corvette and a ’61 Impala. The mixture of my mother’s creativity and my father’s love of cars created the perfect storm that is me now.

Today, I try to look at the story of the car in a different way, bringing artistry and history into each experience. Often, the engineering and innovation are more important to the stories I tell than the technical specifications.

Brittanie Kinch Petersen Automotive Museum Porsche

Bryan Stevens (creative and exhibits dirtector of PAM), Brittanie Kinch, and Paul Gregor of Porsche in front of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.  Photo: Courtesy Brittanie Kinch

How were you involved in bringing the Porsche Effect to fruition?

The Porsche Effect was a yearlong process, initialized long before I was brought on. Bruce Meyer met with Wolfgang Porsche at the Petersen Museum and the two concluded this was the perfect space to celebrate Porsche’s 70th anniversary. When the idea for a Porsche exhibit was proposed, Porsche Cars North America immediately offered its full support.

When the Scenic Route was engaged, Brian Stevens, Leslie Kendall (chief historian for the Petersen Museum), and I took a trip all over Europe to gather information and meet Porsche owners. During the trip, we met with Porsche Design directors at Studio FA Porsche to learn Ferdinand Alexander Porsche’s story. We also spent at week with the historians at the Stuttgart archive. All of this research, all of these great minds, came together as essential content for the exhibit’s story.

When we finally came home to digest it all, Porsche Car Club of America, Jeff Zwart, and Randy Leffingwell became part of the journey. Their archive and resources were the American connection to the global story.

What are your thoughts on the current collector car market?

When you think about it, the automobile is a very young artifact—100 years, give or take. Some cars aren’t even old enough to be collected. What is most interesting to me is that the items that give a car its authenticity are becoming as important as the car itself. Discovering how a car can become an artifact (while still enjoying the vehicle) is an important next step. For example, most ancient artifacts require extreme measures to transport safely—humidified, temperature-controlled containers. The same process will soon be necessary for cars and their accessories.

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