By James Raia
A half-century after first visiting the Concours d'Elegance as a student, Ken Eberts remains immersed in the world of classic automobiles represented in fine art.
A renowned painter, car collector and founding member of the Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS), Eberts's work will be featured this year for the Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance. His work was first featured at event in 1986, three years after Eberts was among a handful of artists who began lobbying for their work to be recognized.
"I don't why, but original galleries and critics kind of dismissed automotive as being commercial art," said Eberts, who began his carer as vehicle designer for Ford. "Probably because of a lot of the brochures a lot of the auto manufacturers used back then were done by commercial artists. And there just wasn't much automotive art around."
The specialty of automotive fine art has expanded, with Ebert's newest example, the 30-by-40 inch watercolor and gouache shot of a trio of Ford GT 40s that finished first, second and third in the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1966. The images of Edsel Ford, Carroll Shelby and Henry Ford are standing in the background of the painting. Eberts began the world last November and finished it in March.
"It's gotten different as things have gotten more sophisticated," said Eberts of the Concours d'Elegance experience. "There are more people involved, although they haven't stopped my creativity. But there are guidelines for what the Concours people wanted and the cars have to be properly represented so the people who are bringing the cars from around the country or from other parts of the world don't feel slighted.
"But it's all worked out and it was a lot of fun doing it. The first poster I did in 1986 I thought of when I was taking a bath and reading a car magazine, so there was no guidance in that one and to this day, it's probably one of my favorites. But this year was exciting and it came out great.
Eberts' painting is also the official poster of the Concours d'Elegance, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the automaker's unprecedented success at LeMan with a collection of Ford GT-40s. It will also be the 50th anniversary since Eberts, president since the 1983 inception of AFAS, first attend the event.
"Our first show was in 1986 and I think we've come a long way," said Eberts, whose more than 1,200 offering have been honored by many organizations. "Certainly, we've been accepted by the Pebble Beach Concours; they've been behind us all the way. And now, you'll notice, particularly during Monterey Auto Week, that almost every art gallery has automotive art in it.
"We still have ways to go. We are not in major museums; it sure would be nice if we were, but I've just notice that a museum in downtown LA has come out automotive art exhibit, so it's happening for art museums, too."
As a career automobile artist, Eberts also lives the lifestyle. He owns eight vintage cars, a Ferrari and a handful of American cars, a 1938 Buick to a 1954 Studebaker and a 1966 Dodge to a 1957 Plymouth.
" Basically, I just pick 'em on esthetics and sometimes they just fall in my lap," said Eberts, who acquired his Dodge at an automobile club fundraising dinner. "I have a three-car garage and car covers for some. They are not Pebble Beach quality cars. A Pebble Beach quality car needs a Pebble Beach quality garage. "