The idea of bringing the art culture into the automotive world originated from the motor sport itself. Hervé Poulain, the French auctioneer and a racing driver, was the man behind this idea of merging the two completely different worlds. He asked his friend, Alexander Calder, to design a scale model with the artwork. Joachen Neerpasch, head of racing at BMW, was also interested in the art concept and thus, fully supported Poulain. BMW provided the automobiles and agreed to cover the cost for conversion and race entry. Hervé Poulain then took part in Le Mans 24-hour race as the driver of an art car, knowing very well the risk of damage to the artwork. However, these artworks proved their roadworthiness and thus, the foundation stone was laid successfully. The first four art cars were designed by the artists Calder, Stella, Lichtenstein and Warhol for free.
This art experiment which began in 1975 soon turned into a legacy and more artifacts were designed and added to the collection. Till date, a total of 17 BMW Art Cars, based on both racing and regular production vehicles, have been made with the last one designed by Jeff Koons in 2010. The home of BMW Art Cars is the BMW Museum in Munich. However, many of these cars have been exhibited in renowned art museums throughout the world including the Louvre, the Guggenheim Museums, and the Shanghai Art Museum.
Let’s have a look at these aesthetic art cars:
Alexander Calder (1975)
This BMW 3.0 CSL was the first car which was transformed by Calder into a work of art. He used only primary colors and beautifully covered the bodywork. Since, this concept was new in 1975, this art car gained popularity fast. Sadly, Calder died the same year it was unveiled.
Frank Stella (1976)
Frank Stella designed this BMW 3.0 CSL in 1976. As you can see, an over sized graph paper design was what he used all over the body to give it a geometric look. He also highlighted carefully every curve and indentation. When asked about his design in an interview, he said “My design is a kind of blueprint applied to the entire body of the car”.
Roy Lichtenstein (1977)
This BMW 320i is the most popular art car. Lichtenstein added his famous comic strip style and painted the lines to give an illusion that the road is showing the car which way to go. The artwork also portrays the surroundings (the countryside) through which the car is passing.
Andy Warhol (1979)
This BMW M1 secured the second position in its class at the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Warhol used bold and bright colors, and explained his artwork: “‘I tried to portray a sense of speed. When a car is going really fast all the lines and colors become a blur”.
Ernst Fuchs (1982)
Ernst Fuchs, a Vienna art professor portrayed his imagination on the bodywork of this BMW 635CSi. In his own words: ‘When painting this car I was able to express a wide range of experiences, fears, desires and invocations, as well as aesthetic, artistic freedom’. ‘A rabbit can be seen running across the motorway at night and leaping over a burning car – a primal fear and a daring dream of defeating the dimensions within which we live. It tells me which colors to choose. I read its lines, its shape and I can hear its call to speed. I see this beautiful rabbit jump through the flames of love – defeating fear itself…’
Robert Rauschenberg (1986)
Robert Rauschenberg designed this BMW 635CSi by using the photographic material of other artists’ works. On the right side of the bodywork, there is the image of an Ingres painting. The left side is decorated with Bronzino’s work. He also used his own pictures of swamp grass and was really pleased with the end result.
Michael Jagamarra Nelson (1989)
The Australian artist Michael Nelson Jagamarra transformed this BMW M3 into an exquisite Papunya art in just 7 days.
Ken Done (1989)
Done portrayed the parrots and parrot fish in this abstract art on BMW M3. He explained the logic behind it by saying: ‘Both are beautiful and move a fantastic speeds. I wanted to express this with the BMW Art Car’.
Matazo Kayama (1990)
Kayama designed this BMW 535i by using the typical Japanese techniques such as Kirigane (metalcut) and Arare (foil printing). He used airbrush technique and produced a new interpretation of the original theme- ‘snow, moon and cherry blossoms’.
Cesar Manrique (1990)
Manrique designed this BMW 730i to portray a harmonious union of technology and nature. He added sweeping lines and vibrant colors to symbolize graceful motion of car.
A.R. Penck (1991)
This bright red BMW Z1 was designed by German artist A.R. Penck. It is said that his work was inspired by Picasso and Rembrandt. Also, inspiration from symbols of cave painting and Penck’s fascination with Mathematics and physics gave birth to this masterpiece.
Esther Mahlangu (1991)
This BMW 525i was the first car designed by a woman. Esther, a South African artist, used the bright colors and ornamental shapes inspired by her ethnic tribal Ndebele art.
Sandro Chia (1992)
Sandro Chia, an Italian born painter, transformed this BMW 3 series car by painting silhouettes and faces on its bodywork.
David Hockney (1995)
This BMW 850 CSi was designed by David Hockney. He wanted to portray the innermost depths of the car.
Jeff Koons (2010)
With vibrant colors, graphics and some race car images, Jeff Koons transformed this BMW M3 GT2 into a dynamic art piece.
If these cars have inspired the artist in your soul, then
check out these very cool BMW cars that are waiting to be turned into pieces of art in your city: Delhi, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad.