Gerry Judah's Sculptures of Speed

In the name of art, it's cars in the sky at the Festival of Speed every year since 1997. Meet the man who makes them: Gerry Judah, a Baghdadi Jew from Calcutta.

Gerry Judah's Sculptures of Speed

A classic equestrian statue—albeit with neither Archduke Charles of Austria nor Tamerlane riding it—was the first massive automotive installation at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, created in 1997 to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Ferrari. The practice has since become a major visual hallmark of the festival along with the endless bales of hay and the scores of racing drivers in attendance.

Gerry Judah's Sculptures of Speed

I had already heard of this year’s colossal outcrop of Aluminum und Shteel before emerging from behind a copse to arrive at the entrance of Goodwood House but that did not diminish at all its power to awe. A 40-ton loop of steel played heavenly tarmac to two pinnacles of Vorsprung durch Technik. On one end was parked Audi’s latest and greatest, the V10-powered Audi R8. Opposite the R8 was a seventy-year-old race car with 1.6× the cylinders.

Gerry Judah's Sculptures of Speed

Quite a car, that. A contemporary of Art Deco marvels like the Chrysler Airflow and the Cadillac Sixteen, it is a streamlined version of the V16 monster that Bernd Rosemeyer drove to win the 1936 European Grand Prix Championship with. During the Rekordwoche—Record Week—of October 1937, Rosemeyer drove this car to 406 km/h (252 MPH) on the public road. That’s within rounding error of the Bugatti Veyron’s top speed and is officially the second fastest anyone has ever gone on a public highway. The record was set three months later on a cold January morning, when Rosemeyer’s nemesis Rudolf Caracciola drove his Mercedes-Benz W125 Streamliner at 268 MPH. Rosemeyer followed ninety minutes later in the Auto Union’s successor, which accidentally developed ground effects that broke the car apart at a speed very close to Caracciola’s, killing the ethereal German.

Gerry Judah's Sculptures of Speed

The man who makes these leviathans of car geekery is a rather unlikely candidate for the job. Gerry Judah is a Baghdadi Jew from Calcutta living in London since 1961.

Gerry Judah's Sculptures of Speed

He is a classically trained artist with diplomas from Goldsmith College and the Slade School of Fine Art. Like a fellow Baghdadi Jew—Sir Victor Sassoon, builder of the gorgeous Peace Hotel in Shanghai—Judah is drawn to making large things. He has worked with many institutions and artists in creating oversized sculptures, displayed outside of museums. Like at the Festival of Speed.

A most interesting aspect of Judah’s work for the Earl of March is its remarkable variety. From Land Rovers climbing a wireframe mountain to a line of Toyota racecars strung up in line, he rarely does the same thing twice. Or, as he was quoted by Wallpaper* magazine in a grammatically correct play on the classic Apple tagline: “You've got to think differently every year.”

Photo Credit: Wallpaper* (second from top), Bruno Postle/Flickr (second from bottom), Mark Thompson/Getty Images (bottom) and the author