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Turning Life into Art: Driving with Cristian Chironi in His Chameleon Fiat 127

“New York Drive”, a performative art event sponsored by Magazzino Art, tries to merge art with life and Le Corbusier’s architecture

Cristian Chironi, New York Drive, performance in New York City, October 14, 2021. Photos by Alexa Hoyer. Courtesy Magazzino Italian Art.

I’ve had a very casual relationship with automobiles. Perhaps it had to do with my driving coach – a very nonchalant Dad, who on my first encounter at the wheel, read a newspaper while instructing me. The fear of being led through busy and congested streets as a young teen, left me somewhat numb to the joys of driving, so when I was invited to attend an event through Magazzino Art, simply called New York Drive, I was intrigued with this unusual invitation to co-pilot a Fiat 127.  Perhaps this would be a way for me to personally sanctify the rare driving lesson I had had as a teen.


Cristian Chironi, New York Drive, performance in New York City, October 14, 2021. Photos by Alexa Hoyer. Courtesy Magazzino Italian Art.

We were to meet at the Italian Consulate’s garage on Park Avenue and then drive through midtown Manhattan with the United Nations as the destination, in this moveable art piece ,the Fiat. What I learned on the drive was the incredible ‘back-story’ regarding the car and its driver, artist Cristian Chironi, and his relationship to the modernist architect Le Corbusier.

What adds to the importance of this event is that the year 2021 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Fiat 127 designed by Pio Manzu in 1971.  “New York Drive seeks to inspire people to come together for a unique moment of in-person exchange and dialogue” as described by Magazzino Art.

Laura Wagner and the Fiat 127. Photo: Laura Wagner

Cristian Chironi was born in the village of Orani, in Sardinia. At a young age he was encouraged by his parents to attend a school specializing in textiles to insure a safe career. But his choice was to become an artist, and as he states emphatically, “that is who I am”.

Cristian Chironi has become a conduit by connecting himself to renowned modernist architect Le Corbusier and fellow artist Costantino Nivola, the original owner of the Fiat-127. Through Chironi’s artistic use of the Fiat, he embarks on a worldwide journey of exploration, art, travels.  The Fiat has become a canvas for the artist to paint – and repaint blocks of color – in his quest to adapt to the colors used in Le Corbusier’s buildings around the world. It is “an architectural keyboard designed to follow the precise rules of color and matched as if they were sounds” says Chironi. He follows Le Corbusier’s slogan when he declares, “a house is a machine for living”.  This concept becomes the artist’s mantra and metaphor on life.

The Fiat 127 Special is used as Chironi sets out on the trial of relationships the great modernist architect Le Corbusier had with different cities.  The car, renamed Chameleon, allows the artist to broaden his capacity to paint alternate color palettes based on location, and typical of the color palette of the buildings designed by Le Corbusier.  In so doing, Chironi reuses the Fiat with an artistic and performative gesture in an effort to merge art and life. The synergy between art, the automobiles and life has been transformed by the use of the Fiat 127 into a moveable art piece.  In performance, as in the ride through midtown Manhattan, the artist himself drives the car in a journey of urban reflection, on his life and his art. He uses his imagination on the themes of travel, mobility, housing, border crossing and social transformation. Chironi’s journey from one point to another becomes the purpose of the path.

Drive Tour # 1, 2020/2021; Unique composition of 9 photographs each measuring 47.2 x 33, 2 x 3.2 cm; Giclée print on Canson Infinity Baryta paper, d-bond, oak frame, invisible glass, conservative, scratch resistant, anti UV; MAMbo Collection – Museum of Modern Art of Bologna; ph. Cristian Chironi.


His experiences throughout the course of his temporary dwellings – from apartments to studios, all in buildings designed by Le Corbusier, are manifested by his use of the Fiat  127.  The car in essence is his color-blocked canvas, conforming to the locations and moods of the individual cities.  While living in Chandigarh India in 2017, he turned his home into a collaborative space, a work in progress, a site of constructive ideas, as well as his residence. It is here where he describes his art as “my house is a Le Corbusier”.

The theme of Chironi’s art has been intended to evolve over the long term and culminate in the totality of all the experiences that he will undergo, while actually living for periods of time in the many homes designed by Le Corbusier around the world. He has to date, lived in 30 Le Corbusier’s habitable homes, in 12 countries.  They have each become a symbiotic performance piece.  The invitation to join him on this ride created an intimate and intriguing look into the artist’s ability to turn life into art. – exhibition through January 2022


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