Updated: Aug 20, 2020
My visit to Volandia is a gift that keeps on giving: it hosts a small but nonetheless intriguing permanent exhibition about Flaminio Bertoni, the Italian who famously styled the most famous Citroen vehicles.
All the pictures come courtesy of my friend Juan Luis Salido, who was with me on that trip and documented it far better than me and my iPhone could have ever managed!
"The Automobile Stylist is the most complete, difficult, passionate craft (...) It takes will, dynamism and hard work to achieve it; but its successes circulate across the world" - Flaminio Bertoni
So why this exhibition is so far away from the Double Chevron's birthplace, Paris?
Because Varese, the Italian province where Volandia lies, is the place where Flaminio Bertoni was born in 1903.
The museum itself exists thanks to the efforts of Flaminio's son, Leonardo Bertoni, who spent the last years of his life to let the great achievements of his father be known to the public at large, not only the car enthusiasts.
Of course, we got the cars: a Traction Avant, a very early DS 19, a late 2CV, and an Ami6.
I believe all of them actually belong to Citroen's Conservatoire and are here on loan: some small stickers on the DS seem to indicate such provenance.
"everything that's volume is sculpture, the car body has volume. So the two things are the same." - Flaminio Bertoni
This sentence is not only true today as well, but also encapsulates Bertoni's own approach to car design: he was an artist, a sculptor that expressed himself with models, rather than drawings.
His drawings, some of which are on display, are extremely basic, almost childish: because they were simply preparatory work for its models, they weren't meant for being shown or presented. Needless to say, such drawings today wouldn't even get you admitted to any design university. Times change...
The sculptures by the windows are original artworks from Flaminio himself... As is, at least to some degree, this 11CV Traction Avant...
The Ami6 from 1961 is possibly the most controversial among Bertoni's Citroen models, yet its look was born out of circumstances: constrained by the use of the 2CV's platform chassis, Bertoni simply had to resort to an inverted read window to obtain the three-box shape that was required for the target market.
The Bertoni exhibition is a small, but pleasant tribute to one of the greatest car designers who ever lived. Nice to see it has a permanent place here at Volandia.