Cars & Guitars: Cooper and Bell Collections to be Exhibited

Cooper and Bell

Taos artists Ron Cooper and Larry Bell invite the public to view objects that inspire them. The exhibition will last for two days, March 9 and 10 from noon to 5:00pm, in Cooper’s Garage, a new contemporary art venue in Taos. Cooper will show six vintage cars that he and his crew have recently created or restored. Bell will share twelve unique 12-string guitars from his collection.

Cooper’s Garage is a temporary contemporary art space in the warehouse district of Taos. The 5,000 sq.ft. space, formerly home to most of Ron Cooper’s vast collection of cars-––including Model Ts, racing cars, pre- and post-war models from all the major automobile manufacturers. Now, the garage is a spacious stage for art. Cooper and his longtime friend, Larry Bell, are committed to curating exhibitions of their own artwork and that of artists they admire. The plan is to stage pop-up exhibitions on the second weekend of each month.

Cars & Guitars, March’s exhibition, will feature objects that inspire each artist. For Cooper it’s cars. Classic cars, race cars, Model T Fords of all varieties. Bell’s passion is twelve-string guitars and has been since 1957 when he borrowed money from his dad to purchase his first guitar. Cooper will show six of his cars and Bell will bring twelve twelve-string guitars to the space. Both artists will be on-site to talk about how their collections fuel their art practices. Also on display will be art from each artist’s collection of work created by the other artist. This is a “Look but don’t touch” exhibition.

Larry Bell on his guitar collection: Someone asked me to put into words what I feel about my guitar collection––which started when I was about 18. It began with a 12-string guitar I found in a pawn shop in downtown Los Angeles. It was called a Stella. I saw it hanging in the window of the store. I had never seen a guitar with 12 strings before. I asked the salesperson if I could see the instrument. I had no idea that guitar would impact me for the rest of my life! When I dragged my nails across the strings, I could feel the vibrations as well as hear it differently than any guitar I had heard before. I borrowed $35 from my dad and brought it home. The sensuousness of that instrument had me spellbound.  One instrument led to another. Sixty-six years later I have almost 500 acoustic guitars, roughly 400 of them have 12 strings. Each one has a different voice. Each one has a different tactile feeling, for me the way the 12 string vibrates is what keeps me searching for another wooden sculpture that sings.

Ron Cooper on his car collection: As a 14 year-old in 1957, my ambition was to be the greatest car customizer in the world. In 1961 after high school, I sold my ’56 Buick Special, ’57 black Ford styleside pickup and a Black Angus steer and headed to Europe. Stopping in New York and going to the great museums there, I had an aha moment… ART!!! You could say that put me on an almost six decade detour. But I have always had great cars. Now, besides making visual art, my cars speak for me. Racing them gives me that moment of paradise––transcendence–– that comes from inventing/creating them. Like a successful work of art.


  • Who: Ron Cooper and Larry Bell
  • What: Cars & Guitars exhibition
  • Where: Cooper’s Garage in Taos at 200-B Bendix Drive (off Camino del Canon West between Medio and Salazar)
  • When: March 9 and 10, Noon to 5:00pm
  • More information will be posted here as it becomes available.

Pictured at top, Ron Cooper with his 1916 Model T Ford pick up and Larry Bell with a guitar made in 1917.

UPDATE! Photos from the Cars & Guitars exhibition.


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