Arthur Kar opens up on how he runs his exclusive car dealership and lists a few of his favorite all-time whips.
I have to credit Instagram with my discovery of Arthur Kar. Several media sites covering Kanye West’s recent birthday at the Staples Center listed Kar as a designer, which got me wondering – who is this guy? What brand does he design for? Evidently this was a case of erroneous conjecture, as when I finally spoke with Arthur I learned he was not in fact a designer at all, but a Parisian car dealer. Arthur operates between Paris and Los Angeles, staying on a relatively low-key wavelength while hanging with some of the highest-profile individuals in music and fashion.
I’ve been in the automotive business for 17 years now. When I was around 15 years old I was washing cars at a dealership, and I quickly learned more about cars when I started to work on them. I was working on engines, mechanical stuff, and I wanted to learn everything I could. It’s my passion, A to Z. I love the design, I love how they are made.
I started trading cars when I was around 20 years old, trying to work with the best customers in Europe and the best people in the business. Shortly after I also started racing with friends of mine all over Europe, so I met more car enthusiasts in this way. I work very instinctively, if I don’t like the car, then I don’t deal with it. I try to get in business with both the cars and the customers that I connect with. So I developed a reputation for this.
Often, customers contact me and deal with me because they want me to sell their car, because I am known to sell new and vintage cars that are in great condition. This is my credibility. I might keep the car for my personal collection or I might sell it, it completely depends.
I tend to stay discreet about my clients’ identity and members, and they have always appreciated it so far, so I intend to keep it that way. It is their right not to advertise what they own or what they spend after all.
How many cars are in your collection?
Right now I have 16 cars in my private collection, which are not for sale. On the business side with L’art de L’automobile I own around 40-50 cars right now. I also work out of Los Angeles, it’s a great place for cars. On the business side, recently I’ve sold items like a 1965 Toyota FJ40 (Land Cruiser), a LaFerrari, a Ferrari F50, an Aston Martin DB4, and a Porsche 918 Spyder that I just delivered to a customer in Portugal.
Your company is called L’art de l’automobile, how do you see the automotive field relating to art and design?
Well certain cars are like art themselves and when a car stops being produced it’s like deadstock art. Car designers put the same effort into their designs as the world’s best painters or sculptors. I called my company L’art de L’automobile because I see this crossover between cars and art. But art is also one of my biggest inspirations and motivations. The other reason for the company name is my own: Arthur (laughs).
We’ve seen you wearing Supreme and Haider Ackerman. What are some of your favorite labels?
I like to mix designers with more casual brands, I prefer not to mention anyone.
What are some of the artists that you’re most interested in?
John Baldessari, Fredrik Værslev, Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand; I also really enjoy African art. I would need two days to explain why I like each of these artists. Generally, it’s what I’m sensitive to and I guess you can find some kind of common ground to all this if you are very creative (laughs).
What about car designers?
Zagato would definitely be my favorite, also the Italian firm Pininfarina, or Ghia.
We’ve also spotted you at fashion shows and events, is that another big interest of yours?
As I mentioned in regards to art, fashion is one of my passions, I have always been drawn to this world since a very young age. I source a lot of inspiration from high fashion and streetwear. I am lucky enough to count some great designers as my friend’s today, and their creativity inspires me on a daily basis.
Is that how you became friends with people like Kanye West and his entourage, as we often see you in their company?
These guys are my friends. But Kanye is, indeed, one of my favorite designers and his ability to create whether it is music, fashion or any other project inspires and motivates me everyday.
So what are some of your favorite cars of all time?
1. Volkswagen GTI: I grew up on this car, it’s the peoples car. I have one in my collection and it’s my favorite. It’s orange.
2. Porsche Carrera 993 S Vesuvio : It’s one of the last air-cooled Porsches, as the 996 was water-cooled. It has a chassis from the 4S. Also, when I started out in the car business years ago, this car really caught my eye.
3. Ferrari F40: I’m born in the 1980s, when I grew up this was one of my dream cars. Everyone had a poster of the F40 in their room. But also the design, it’s so strange for an ‘80s or ‘90s car. The rear windshield makes no sense, but I like it, it drives me crazy. It’s also one of the most interesting cars to drive.
4. BMW Isetta: The front door on this one is crazy, it was very unique at the time.
5. Land Rover Defender: I like the Defender because it’s a real SUV. The military style is practical. 6.
Do you have any projects or collaborations in the near future that you would like to talk about ?
I just finished a collaboration with the French concept store colette on 18 Smart Cars that were sold for the 18th anniversary of the store. Another collaboration is already on the way but I am not allowed to mention it yet, we will have to talk about it in our next interview.
- Photography: Karl Hab for Highsnobiety.com