Many aficionados – ourselves included – see BMWs as a work of art.
In 1975, the German automaker increased their connection to high art by running a BMW painted by artist Alexander Calder in the 24-hour Le Mans race. According to BMW Group, the first BMW Art Car was conceived by French racing driver and art enthusiast Hervé Poulain, who asked Calder to apply his creative talents to the BMW 3.0 CSL that would participate in Le Mans. With then-BMW Motorsport Director Jochen Neerpasch on board, the first BMW Art Car was born – and it became an instant favorite on the track.
Over the past four decades, what became known as the BMW Art Car Collection has grown to include a fleet of vehicles. Artists are chosen by a panel of international judges, and well-known names like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney and Jeff Koons have participated.
As new cars have been added to the collection, the focus has changed from creating unique cars for races to public relations and raising awareness of alternative and renewable energy sources.
Poulain speaks about his history and experiences with BMW Art Cars in this video:
In total, seventeen international artists have contributed to the Art Car Collection, and interest in the “rolling sculptures” has spread all around the world. Several cars are usually on display at the BMW Museum in Munich, the home of the BMW Art Cars, as part of its permanent collection. The remaining BMW Art Cars are travel to locations like art fairs in Los Angeles and London, as well as exhibitions at the Louvre and Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
“The BMW Art Cars provide an exciting landmark at the interface where cars, technology, design, art and motorsport meet,” said Maximilian Schöberl, BMW Group Senior Vice President, in a press release. “The 40-year history of our ‘rolling sculptures’ is as unique as the artists who created them. The BMW Art Cars are an essential element and core characteristic of our global cultural engagement.”
The complete BMW Art Car Collection includes the following:
- Alexander Calder (BMW 3.0 CSL, 1975)
- Frank Stella (BMW 3.0 CSL, 1976)
Roy Lichtenstein (BMW 320 Group 5, 1977)
- Andy Warhol (BMW M1 Group 4, 1979)
- Ernst Fuchs (BMW 635CSi, 1982)
- Robert Rauschenberg (BMW 635CSi, 1986)
- Michael Jagamara Nelson (BMW M3 Group A, 1989)
- Ken Done (BMW M3 Group A, 1989)
- Matazo Kayama (BMW 535i, 1990)
- César Manrique (BMW 730i, 1990)
- A. R. Penck (BMW Z1, 1991)
- Esther Mahlangu (BMW 525i, 1991)
- Sandro Chia (BMW M3 GTR, 1992)
- David Hockney (BMW 850CSi, 1995)
- Jenny Holzer (BMW V12 LMR, 1999)
- Ólafur Elíasson (BMW H2R, 2007)
- Jeff Koons (BMW M3 GT2, 2010)
This year, the 40th-anniversary celebrations have also included exhibitions in Hong Kong at the Centre Pompidou and the BMW Museum and Concorso d’Eleganza at Lake Como. The first four BMW Art Cars by Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, as well as the M3 GT2 created by Jeff Koons (above), were all on display.
By the end of 2015, exhibits will also appear at the Guggenheim in New York and Miami in addition to those listed above.