Immensely diverse in style, the extraordinary BMW Art Car Collection of eye-catching "rolling masterpieces" currently comprises of 19 vehicles, all transformed by leading artists from around the world, such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.
Springing from the world of motor sport, idea for such a collection came from the French racecar driver and auctioneer Hervé Poulain, who wanted to combine worlds of car racing and contemporary art by inviting artists to create a canvas on an automobile.
For the project, BMW commissions artists of different nationalities and different styles giving them complete artistic freedom in creating their rolling, drivable works of art. The first automobile, which entered the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race, was designed in 1975.
After almost forty years of success, the collection is still continually being expanded with new and striking pieces of an extremely high artistic level.
This BMW 3.0 CSL, designed by American sculptor Alexander Calder in 1975, was the first Art Car ever and the foundation stone of the Art Car Collection that followed.
Commissioned by his friend Hervé Poulain to create a rolling canvas Poulain would race at Le Mans 24 Hours race, Calder's challenge was creating his own artistic impression on something he did not create himself.
Renowned for his mobile sculptures which combined love of art with his education in engineering, Calder's most famous works of abstract art entitled “Mobiles” were considered to be the most innovative sculptures of the 20th century. His rendition of this race car boasts powerful combination of differing primary colors and attractive curving expanses through broad swatches of color he applied generously to the wings, hood and roof.
In 1976 Frank Stella, an American painter, printmaker and a passionate car racing fan was commissioned to create the second BMW Art Car for the Le Mans race, which generated immense anticipation.
Noted for his pop-art paintings in the area of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction, Stella's work became a seminal part of American art history. Inspired by the car's technical aura Stella emphasized its geometric look by using black and white square grid pattern resembling the technical graph paper, with dotted cut-out lines running across the bodywork.
As a reward for his art car Stella received a two year lease on a BMW, which gave him a taste for speed and racing.
One of fastest moving pieces of art and arguably one of the most popular of all the Art Cars is this BMW 320i that Roy Lichtenstein transformed in 1977, combining its bodywork aerodynamics with the recognizable comic strip aesthetics of his art.
This famed American pop artist was a leading figure in the new art movement of the 1960's, acclaimed for his "industrial" paintings of precise compositions and tounge-in-cheek humor. Lichtenstein's Art Car is a pure Lichtenstein piece, a skillful and critical examination of a car and changes it had gone through since its invention.
When looked at more closely it reveals a picture of passing scenery in which both the car and its movement are merged into one.
BMW M1 painted in 1979 by Andy Warhol, a central figure in the Pop Art movement, surely is one of the highlights of the Art Cars Collection and a true representation of Warhol's artwork he was famed for.
Covered in lucid finger and brush strokes of vibrant colors blurred together, this dashing mobile canvas portrays a sense of high speed, making the car to appear like it is speeding on the road while standing still. Warhol was the first artist to paint the real M1 himself, as opposed to the previous ones which created their designs on small scale models and then had technicians reproducing the designs on the actual cars.
When asked if he was pleased with the result Warhol said that "it is better than the work of art itself".
Austrian visionary artist of many talents, and the founder of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, Ernst Fuchs created his Art Car in 1982.
This amazingly decorated BMW 635CSi was the first serial production car to be included in the collection and the first one created by a European artist. It depicts a daring rabbit conquering his primal fear and leaping over a burning car speeding on the motorway, an image inspired by the artist's dream he had when he was a little boy.
The Art Car by Ernst Fuchs, named Fire Fox on a Hare Hunt, was the first one intended solely as an exhibit and was never driven on the road or in a race.
Robert Rauschenberg's BMW 635CSi from 1986 was the sixth addition to the BMW Art Cars Collection, and the first to have its bodywork decorated with photographic material.
Rauschenberg was an American painter, graphic artists and sculptor widely known for his "Combines", innovative artworks which combined traditional techniques with non-traditional objects and materials. His BMW was not different. Its right side bears the image of an Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres painting while the left hand side is adorned with one of the works by Agnolo Bronzino, all surrounded by Rauschenberg's own images of ancient decorative plates and swamp grass.
The result is an astonishing artistic transformation of a car turned into a drivable museum.
In 1989 Australian artist Michael Jagamara (or Tjakamarra) Nelson worked tirelessly for seven days straight to transform a black BMW M3 into a mesmerizing masterpiece of Papunya art.
Nelson is an acclaimed indigenous Australian painter from Papunya, a small, restricted community of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, praised for his traditional method of painting. As a stark contrast to the cutting edge technology used in the production of M3, a model from the Motorsport section of BMW Australia, on his Art Car Nelson employed his wonderful ancient Papunya style to paint a dreamy mosaic of diverse sand picture shapes and forms representing landscapes, animals and people of his mystical homeland.
Australian artist Ken Done is best known for his design work under the "Done Design" label, especially for his brightly colored images of Australian landmarks.
For his artistic transformation of a BMW M3 racing car, Done created an exotic Art Car inspired by the visual beauty of modern Australia, full of life, vitality and joy. With powerful brushstrokes and masterful use of vibrant colors, Ken Done painted the car with sunny beaches, tropical landscapes and abstract images of parrots and parrot fish, typical animals of his homeland that symbolize beauty and speed, a perfect match for such a powerful machine like M3.
Matazo Kayama was a Japanese painter who employed a mixed technique to create his captivating paintings, which appear both like paintings and photographs.
For his take on the Art Car, created in 1990, he was presented with a new canvas in the form of BMW 535i. Kayama based his artistic car transformation on one of his earlier works called Snow, moon and cherry blossoms, but he managed to create a completely new interpretation of this theme. Using different techniques of airbrushing, metal cutting (Kirigane) and foil printing (Arare), Matazo Kayama produced an extraordinarily elegant Art Car and an impressive artwork which reflects his timeless aesthetics.
For his 1990 rendition of the Art Car, Spanish artist and architect César Manrique started with the idea that cars, as everyday objects, play an indispensable role in the appearance of modern day surroundings.
With the concept of aesthetic appeal and emphasis on the notion of speed and aerodynamics, Manrique's BMW 730i embodies a harmonious combination of nature and technology, an Art Car which gives an impression of effortless gliding and graceful movement. Cesar Manrique created an eye-catching artwork on wheels which employs glowing, almost living colors and broad, sweeping strokes blending into the outlines of this magnificent vehicle which, ironically, was never seen on the motor way.
AR Penck (Ralf Winkler) was a German painter, printmaker and sculptor who received worldwide recognition for his paintings with pictographic, neo-primitivist imagery of human figures and other totemic forms.
For his BMW Z1 Art Car, AR Penck drew inspiration from the artists like Picasso and Rembrandt, and the technical design of the car itself, regarding it as a work of art even before he began to work on it. Contrasting this fantastic masterpiece of engineering and design with prehistoric cave paintings, abstract symbols, and his legendary stick figures, he created a unique and mind-boggling Art Car which appears like a cipher that needs to be decoded.
The twelfth addition to the Art Cars collection, a BMW 525i from 1991, was the first one painted by a painter coming from the African continent, and the first one signed by a female artist. Esther Mahlangu is a remarkable South African painter and sculptor, internationally acclaimed for her colorful artworks of artistic vocabulary closely tied to the traditions of her race.
Mahlangu painted the bodywork of the car with the bright colors and clearly recognizable ornamental shapes, typical of her ethnic tribal Ndebele art, creating a masterpiece of ancient African artwork on this high speed saloon, transforming it into the first African Art Car of an astonishing beauty.
Sandro Chia is an Italian painter and sculptor, and a major artist of the movement in Italian figurative, Neo-Expressionist painting known as the Transavanguardia, who, as a child, actually drew graffiti on cars!
In 1992 Chia was commissioned to paint a touring racing car prototype from the BMW 3 series. Starting with the idea that a car is a highly desired object in modern society, Sandro Chia painted the surface of this Art Car to represent these gazes and stares of admiration and covet. The result is a bedazzling paintwork consisting of colorfully painted faces and silhouettes that challenge the observers to consider that what they are looking at is actually a mirror reflection of themselves.
David Hockney is an English painter, draughtsman and photographer, an important contributor to the Pop Art movement of the 1960's, and considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.
In 1995, after several months of meticulous work, Hockney created the most stunning 14th Art Car, a BMW 850CSi, portraying the very innermost depths of the car, from stylized silhouettes of a driver and a dog on the backseat, to intake manifolds of the engine and suction vents, thoroughly turning its contents out for the viewer to see.
In this amazing composition, David Hockney incorporated green colored excerpts of an abstract landscape, cleverly exploiting the notion of experiencing landscapes while traveling in a car.
Jenny Holzer, the American conceptual artist very critical of western society and in constant search for new ways to make narrative or commentary an implicit part of visual objects, was the second female artist to create an Art Car.
In 1999 Holzer transformed a BMW V12 LMR into a vehicle conveying her provocative messages like "Protect me from what I want" or "You are so complex you don't respond to danger", using only light and shiny, reflective foil for the chrome lettering, in order to avoid adding any extra weight to this racing car, outlined with phosphorescent color.
Holzer's take on the V12 resulted in clever phrases which, apart from being thought provoking, also have an almost magical light effect.
Olafur Eliasson is a Danish artist recognized for his sculptures and large-scale installations which employ elemental materials, such as light and water, to enhance the viewer's experience.
With the BMW H2R Project Art Car he created in 2007, Eliasson confronted a number of critical, global warming-related issues. Working on the Art Car, Eliasson transformed an object of advanced industrial design, a hydrogen-powered, environment-friendly car, into an artwork which critically and poetically reflects on the causal relationship between auto industry and global warming.
Eliasson removed the car's outer layer and replaced it with a complex, translucent skin made of steel meshing, shiny metal plates, and many layers of ice, creating an art piece that engages the mind and provokes discussion.
The seventeenth addition to the BMW Art Cars Collection is a BMW M3 GT2 aesthetically reworked by Jeff Koons in 2010. Considered as one of the most successful concept artist in a world, Koons is widely known for his reproductions of seemingly banal objects. He rose to prominence in the mid-1980's as part of a generation of artists who explored the meaning of art in a media-saturated era.
The striking vibrant colors of Koons’ Art Car, which pays tribute to Warhol and his BMW M1 by bearing the racing number 79, exude a boisterous sense of power, motion and bursting energy. With its amazing powerful exterior design in combination with silver interior, Koons's BMW M3 GT2 imparts a strong dynamic appearance even when standing still.
The eighteenth to the BMW Art Cars Collection is a BMW M6 GTLM aesthetically designed by John Baldessari in 2016.
Baldessari's concept is playfully satirical, at the same time highlighting some of his trademark ideas. The artist placed the monochrome dots in the colors red, yellow, blue and green, making his distinct mark. When viewed from the side, the car appears to have both two-dimension and three-dimension.
The central typographic element is the writing FAST, which transports the power of the BMW Art Car to its outside and makes it visually accessible for the viewers both at the race track and the museum.
In 2017, Cao Fei designed the BMW M6 GT3, the nineteenth model for the BMW Art Cars Collection. Her design reflects on the speed of change in China, on tradition and future.
As the artist explained herself, the work questions the existence of the boundaries of the human mind. At the same time, she paid tribute to Asia’s ancient spiritual wisdom as it swiftly spreads out into the third millennium. The car features three components - a video focusing on a time traveling spiritual practitioner, augmented reality features picturing colorful light particles, accessible via a dedicated app (App Store: keyword “BMW Art Car #18”), and the BMW M6 GT3 race car in its original carbon black.