BMW: A Driving Obsession

BMW Art Cars

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BMW's Art Cars

When race car driver and auctioneer Herve Poulain asked his friend, artist Alexander Calder, to paint the BMW 3.0 CLS that he would race in the 1975 Le Mans endurance race, it was the beginning of a truly gorgeous concept: the BMW Art Car Collection. The German automaker responded quickly to the enormous public enthusiasm surrounding Calder’s art-on-wheels, deciding to establish the Art Car Collection. Since then, BMW has invited varying artists to contribute their considerable talents to the co
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

When race car driver and auctioneer Herve Poulain asked his friend, artist Alexander Calder, to paint the BMW 3.0 CLS that he would race in the 1975 Le Mans endurance race, it was the beginning of a truly gorgeous concept: the BMW Art Car Collection. The German automaker responded quickly to the enormous public enthusiasm surrounding Calder’s art-on-wheels, deciding to establish the Art Car Collection. Since then, BMW has invited varying artists to contribute their considerable talents to the collection.

Click ahead to see the artists’ touches on 17 priceless BMWs.

Posted July 8, 2011
By Constance Parten

1975: Alexander Calder's BMW 3.0 CSL E9

Calder's friend, Herve Poulain, a French auctioneer and race driver, asked him to commission a rolling canvas on the BMW 3.0 CSL he would race at Le Mans 24 Hours race.An engineer and sculptor, Calder’s challenge was creating his own "artistic stamp" on something that he did not produce and sculpt himself. His rendition of the 3.0 CSL boasts powerful colors and attractive curving expanses, which he applied generously to the wings, hood and roof. Calder saw his art in action when he attended the
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

Calder's friend, Herve Poulain, a French auctioneer and race driver, asked him to commission a rolling canvas on the BMW 3.0 CSL he would race at Le Mans 24 Hours race.

An engineer and sculptor, Calder’s challenge was creating his own "artistic stamp" on something that he did not produce and sculpt himself. His rendition of the 3.0 CSL boasts powerful colors and attractive curving expanses, which he applied generously to the wings, hood and roof. Calder saw his art in action when he attended the Le Mans 24-hour race as a guest to witness his work’s premiere.

Source: BMW Group PressClub Global

1976: Frank Stella BMW 3.0 CSL Turbo E9

The second BMW Art Car was created by American artist and passionate motor racing fan Frank Stella. During the design conception, the American artist switched gears from his usual random style of painting and sought inspiration for the vehicle’s technical aura. The result: a black and white square quid with an evenness and precision reminiscent of oversized graph paper.Within this grid, pattern-like, dotted lines run across the bodywork, suggesting that Stella may have wished to cut out the car
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

The second BMW Art Car was created by American artist and passionate motor racing fan Frank Stella. During the design conception, the American artist switched gears from his usual random style of painting and sought inspiration for the vehicle’s technical aura. The result: a black and white square quid with an evenness and precision reminiscent of oversized graph paper.

Within this grid, pattern-like, dotted lines run across the bodywork, suggesting that Stella may have wished to cut out the car and reassemble it in a new shape.

The grid pattern - a feature of both his earlier and later creative period - was often used by Stella as a kind of stage upon which a painted drama takes place. By way of contrast, the paintwork he created specially for the Le Mans race is not a stage, but the action itself.

Source: BMW Group PressClub Global

1977: Roy Lichtenstein's BMW 320i E21

In 1977 Roy Lichtenstein turned a BMW 320i into a piece of his art that was driven by Poulain and Mignot at Le Mans 24-hour race and finished ninth overall and first in class.When Lichtenstein created the third BMW Art Car, he said he used "painted lines as a road, pointing the way for the car. The design also shows the scenery as it passes by. Even the sky and sunlight are to been seen....you could list all the things a car experiences - the only difference is that this car mirrors all these th
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

In 1977 Roy Lichtenstein turned a BMW 320i into a piece of his art that was driven by Poulain and Mignot at Le Mans 24-hour race and finished ninth overall and first in class.

When Lichtenstein created the third BMW Art Car, he said he used "painted lines as a road, pointing the way for the car. The design also shows the scenery as it passes by. Even the sky and sunlight are to been seen....you could list all the things a car experiences - the only difference is that this car mirrors all these things even before it takes to the road."

The harmony achieved between predetermined aerodynamic features and free composition is pure Lichtenstein. It is an expression of his artistic credo: Art must be an element of everyday life - its themes and inspiration must come from the lives of ordinary people.

Source: BMW Group PressClub Global

1979: Andy Warhol's BMW M1

The fourth BMW Art Car, a BMW M1, was created in 1977 by the Pop Art legend Andy Warhol who, unlike the previous artists, worked directly on the full-scale vehicle and painted the car himself.For Andy Warhol to paint an automobile seems natural. His studio was known as a factory and his greatest fame came from portraying Campbell's Soup cans.Warhol explained the sweeping strokes of his car, saying, "I tried to portray speed pictorially. If a car is moving really quickly, all the lines and colors
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

The fourth BMW Art Car, a BMW M1, was created in 1977 by the Pop Art legend Andy Warhol who, unlike the previous artists, worked directly on the full-scale vehicle and painted the car himself.

For Andy Warhol to paint an automobile seems natural. His studio was known as a factory and his greatest fame came from portraying Campbell's Soup cans.

Warhol explained the sweeping strokes of his car, saying, "I tried to portray speed pictorially. If a car is moving really quickly, all the lines and colors are blurred."

All previous Art Car artists created their designs on 1:5 scale models, called maquettes, and had technicians reproduce their designs on the real cars. Warhol insisted on painting the real M1 himself.

He is reported to have spent all of 23 minutes painting the car. He ran his fingers through the paint to leave a personal touch. When asked if he was pleased with the end result, he replied, "I love the car. It's better than the work of art itself."

The car raced only once, in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979, driven by Manfred Winkelhock (Germany) and the Frenchmen Herve Poulain and Marcel Mignot. It placed sixth overall and second in class.

Source: BMW Group PressClub Global

1982: Ernst Fuchs' BMW 635CSi

In 1982 Austrian painter Ernst Fuchs created the fifth BMW Art Car, a 635 CSi. He took his inspiration from a dream he had when he was five years old."In the painting, I gave expression to various experiences, fears, desires and implorations, but also to free artistic creation. I call this car 'Firefox on Harehunt.' It represents a hare racing across a motorway at night and leaping over a burning car, the primeval fear and bold dream of surmounting a dimension in which we live. It tells me its c

In 1982 Austrian painter Ernst Fuchs created the fifth BMW Art Car, a 635 CSi. He took his inspiration from a dream he had when he was five years old.

"In the painting, I gave expression to various experiences, fears, desires and implorations, but also to free artistic creation. I call this car 'Firefox on Harehunt.' It represents a hare racing across a motorway at night and leaping over a burning car, the primeval fear and bold dream of surmounting a dimension in which we live. It tells me its colors, I read them in its lines and shape, I hear its speedy call and can already see the handsome hare leaping through flames of love, driving away fears."

Source: BMW Group PressClub Global

1986: Robert Rauschenberg's BWM 635 CSi

The sixth addition to BMW's collection of Art Cars was the first in which the artist used photographic methods to transfer images (including images of famous classical paintings) to the car.Rauschenberg extended his use of Art Car motifs in his six-part, 1988 "Beamer" series - presented as transparent films on enameled aluminum and using his trademark collage techniques. The paintings will be offered for sale from the artist's private collection.The Rauschenberg car made its first appearance in
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

The sixth addition to BMW's collection of Art Cars was the first in which the artist used photographic methods to transfer images (including images of famous classical paintings) to the car.

Rauschenberg extended his use of Art Car motifs in his six-part, 1988 "Beamer" series - presented as transparent films on enameled aluminum and using his trademark collage techniques. The paintings will be offered for sale from the artist's private collection.

The Rauschenberg car made its first appearance in 1986 at the BMW Gallery on Park Avenue in New York City, and in 1988 made its European debut in West Berlin. Since then it has been exhibited across Europe and was a centerpiece of the acclaimed 1997 Rauschenberg retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Source: BMW Group PressClub Global

1989: M.J. Nelson's BMW M3

After seven days of tireless work, the Australian artist Michael Jagamara Nelson transformed a black BMW M3 from the Motorsport section of BMW Australia into a masterpiece of Papunya art.The geometric shapes appear deceptively abstract, but those familiar with Australian mythology will recognize kangaroos or emus. Papunya paintings, like those of Michael Jagamara Nelson, can be understood as aerial views of landscapes. They feature diverse forms symbolizing water, caves, men and animals - and si
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

After seven days of tireless work, the Australian artist Michael Jagamara Nelson transformed a black BMW M3 from the Motorsport section of BMW Australia into a masterpiece of Papunya art.

The geometric shapes appear deceptively abstract, but those familiar with Australian mythology will recognize kangaroos or emus. Papunya paintings, like those of Michael Jagamara Nelson, can be understood as aerial views of landscapes. They feature diverse forms symbolizing water, caves, men and animals - and simultaneously embody religious myths ("dreamings") which have been handed down from one Aboriginal generation to the next in the form of rock and cave paintings for thousands of years.

Video: BMW Art Car by Jagamara Nelson "Fathers Dream"Source: BMW Group PressClub Global

1989: Ken Done's BMW M3

Ken Done had definite ideas of how to decorate the BMW M3 that the Australian BMW Motorsport department gave him.On one hand, he wanted to express the fascination that this high-performance vehicle held for him. On the other, it had to be typically Australian and reflect the vitality of his home continent. Done decided on exotic colors and painted parrots and parrot fish, animals that, in his eyes, share two characteristics with the BMW M3: beauty and speed. The result is as appealing as it is o
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

Ken Done had definite ideas of how to decorate the BMW M3 that the Australian BMW Motorsport department gave him.

On one hand, he wanted to express the fascination that this high-performance vehicle held for him. On the other, it had to be typically Australian and reflect the vitality of his home continent. Done decided on exotic colors and painted parrots and parrot fish, animals that, in his eyes, share two characteristics with the BMW M3: beauty and speed. The result is as appealing as it is original: Done's Art Car symbolizes both immense dynamism and mysterious exoticism at the same time.

Source: BMW World

1990: Matazo Kayama's BMW 535i

In the design of the BMW 535i, Matazo Kayama wanted to express his fascination with BMW technology while evoking vivid associations with modern Japan.He reverted to his earlier theme "Snow, Moon and Flowers," but painted it in a totally new way using an airbrush. To highlight the contrast and to emphasize the elegant quality of the car, Kayama sprayed fine blue shadows on parts of the silver bodywork and then used classical Japanese techniques in the second phase such as "Kirigane" (metal cuttin
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

In the design of the BMW 535i, Matazo Kayama wanted to express his fascination with BMW technology while evoking vivid associations with modern Japan.

He reverted to his earlier theme "Snow, Moon and Flowers," but painted it in a totally new way using an airbrush. To highlight the contrast and to emphasize the elegant quality of the car, Kayama sprayed fine blue shadows on parts of the silver bodywork and then used classical Japanese techniques in the second phase such as "Kirigane" (metal cutting) and "Arare" (foil impression). He cut out small pieces of silver, gold and aluminum foil individually and transferred them to the bodywork.

The result: Kayama's Art Car does not just reflect timeless aesthetics but at the same time extraordinary elegance.

Source: BMW World

1990: Cesar Manrique's BMW 730i

Cesar Manrique had a clear point of view on the design of the BMW 730i. In his eyes, the automobile is an indispensable feature of daily life; it greatly influences the way we see the world around us.When designing the car, Manrique particularly wanted to "combine the notions of speed and aerodynamics with the concept of aesthetic appeal in one object." And he succeeded: glowing colors and broad, sweeping strokes which blend into the outlines of the car are suggestive of effortless gliding and g
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

Cesar Manrique had a clear point of view on the design of the BMW 730i. In his eyes, the automobile is an indispensable feature of daily life; it greatly influences the way we see the world around us.

When designing the car, Manrique particularly wanted to "combine the notions of speed and aerodynamics with the concept of aesthetic appeal in one object." And he succeeded: glowing colors and broad, sweeping strokes which blend into the outlines of the car are suggestive of effortless gliding and graceful movement.

Source: BMW World

1991: A.R. Penck's BMW Z1

For A.R. Penck, the BMW Z1 was already a "work of art," in which the creativity and fantasy of the engineer and designer were reflected.It was from the technical design of the Z1 that Penck drew inspiration for his work. The artist set the modern appearance of the car in contrast with the sign language, which, in its simplicity recalls prehistoric cave paintings. However, it is at the same time a challenge to the observer, as the apparently straightforward symbols, evolved by a long process of a
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

For A.R. Penck, the BMW Z1 was already a "work of art," in which the creativity and fantasy of the engineer and designer were reflected.

It was from the technical design of the Z1 that Penck drew inspiration for his work. The artist set the modern appearance of the car in contrast with the sign language, which, in its simplicity recalls prehistoric cave paintings. However, it is at the same time a challenge to the observer, as the apparently straightforward symbols, evolved by a long process of abstraction, are in fact ciphers to be decoded.

Source: BMW World


1991: Esther Mahlangua's BMW 525i

"My art has evolved from the tribal tradition of decorating our homes," said the South African painter Esther Mahlangu of her work.With the painting of the BMW 525i, she wanted to link this handed-down art form to the modern appearance of the automobile. A challenge that Mahlangu mastered outstandingly with the creation of the first African Art Car.In order to get a feeling for the completely new medium, the artist first of all painted the door of another BMW, before she ventured to create "her"
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

"My art has evolved from the tribal tradition of decorating our homes," said the South African painter Esther Mahlangu of her work.

With the painting of the BMW 525i, she wanted to link this handed-down art form to the modern appearance of the automobile. A challenge that Mahlangu mastered outstandingly with the creation of the first African Art Car.

In order to get a feeling for the completely new medium, the artist first of all painted the door of another BMW, before she ventured to create "her" Art Car. Within a week, she transformed the 5 Series saloon into a masterpiece of African Ndebele art - and established herself as the first woman in the list of international Art Car artists.

Video: Esther Mahlangu's Art Car
Source: BMW World


1992: Sandro Chia's BMW 3 Series racecar

"Paint me, paint me!" are the words the BMW called to Sandro Chia when he first saw the prototype of a 3 Series racing touring car, the artist said.So he painted faces and a sea of vivid colors until the bodywork of the car was completely covered." The automobile is a sought-after possession in society," Chia said when he had finished his work. "All eyes are upon it. People look closely at cars. This car reflects their gaze."The design of the 13th BMW Art Car was not Chia's first artistic advent
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

"Paint me, paint me!" are the words the BMW called to Sandro Chia when he first saw the prototype of a 3 Series racing touring car, the artist said.

So he painted faces and a sea of vivid colors until the bodywork of the car was completely covered." The automobile is a sought-after possession in society," Chia said when he had finished his work. "All eyes are upon it. People look closely at cars. This car reflects their gaze."

The design of the 13th BMW Art Car was not Chia's first artistic adventure with an automobile: as a child, he drew graffiti on cars.

Source: BMW World


1995: David Hockney's BMW 850CSi

"And then, I must admit, I also looked at the other Art Cars. In the end I thought, probably it would be good to perhaps show the car so you could be looking inside it." To turn his idea into reality, Hockney took several months and allowed the inside of the BMW 850 CSi to be outwardly visible. Stylized intake manifolds of the engine appear on the hood, and the silhouette of the driver can be seen on the door. And you don't just see the inside of the car, but also excerpts of an abstract landsca
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

"And then, I must admit, I also looked at the other Art Cars. In the end I thought, probably it would be good to perhaps show the car so you could be looking inside it." To turn his idea into reality, Hockney took several months and allowed the inside of the BMW 850 CSi to be outwardly visible. Stylized intake manifolds of the engine appear on the hood, and the silhouette of the driver can be seen on the door. And you don't just see the inside of the car, but also excerpts of an abstract landscape. Because "traveling around in a car means experiencing landscapes, which is one of the reasons why I chose green as a color," Hockney said.

Source: BMW World


1999: Jenny Holzer's BMW V12 LMR

The American concept artist Jenny Holzer covered the 15th Art Car, a BMW V12 LMR, with surprising messages - messages that she says "will probably never lose their relevance."The expression of her concept is based on traditional features, colours and graphics of the racing car design. Chrome letters made of reflecting metal foil, outlined with phosphorescent color, give the text an almost magic light effect. What is crucial for the perception of her word art is the context in which it is present
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

The American concept artist Jenny Holzer covered the 15th Art Car, a BMW V12 LMR, with surprising messages - messages that she says "will probably never lose their relevance."

The expression of her concept is based on traditional features, colours and graphics of the racing car design. Chrome letters made of reflecting metal foil, outlined with phosphorescent color, give the text an almost magic light effect. What is crucial for the perception of her word art is the context in which it is presented. "Protect me from what I want" - seen against the backdrop of the most spectacular car race in the world, with its battle for places and prestige, the word artist's plea for survival gains a whole new meaning.

"You are so complex you don't respond to danger" - a provocation that could not have been put better when referring to the world of motor racing.

With these words, Holzer's V12 LMR takes the Art Car back to its Le Mans roots.

Source: BMW World


2007: Olafur Eliasson's BMW H2R

The BMW H2R race car, a hydrogen-powered vehicle, was developed to attain speed records while pursuing a sustainable future based on the use of regenerative fuel. For his Art Car project, Olafur Eliasson removed the car's outer shell and replaced it with a complex, translucent skin made of steel mesh, reflective steel panels, and many layers of ice."Eliasson's transformation of the H2R car is a powerful provocation to design and a reminder of the profound effect design can have on our lives," sa
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

The BMW H2R race car, a hydrogen-powered vehicle, was developed to attain speed records while pursuing a sustainable future based on the use of regenerative fuel. For his Art Car project, Olafur Eliasson removed the car's outer shell and replaced it with a complex, translucent skin made of steel mesh, reflective steel panels, and many layers of ice.

"Eliasson's transformation of the H2R car is a powerful provocation to design and a reminder of the profound effect design can have on our lives," said Henry Urbach, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design. "He has given us a work that challenges the way we understand cars now and helps point us toward a different future. It's an experiment, really, as much a social and political intervention as an aesthetic one, and one whose effects will likely be felt for years to come."

Eliasson's steel-and-ice-covered automobile, like his overall body of work, evokes multiple associations. First, it reflects the artist's long-standing interest in natural phenomena and the sense of dislocation and awe they can inspire. In this context, the ice also draws attention to hydrogen, which liquefies and becomes fuel-ready at sub-zero temperatures, as well as to the fuel's only byproduct: water.

"Our movement in space implies friction: not only wind resistance, but also social, physical, and political frictions," Eliasson comments. "Thus, movement has consequences for self-perception and the way we engage with the world. One can look at the body as a mobile vessel or a vehicle that changes the parameters of time and space. In driving a car, one obviously also negotiates the way time-space is constructed. What I find so interesting in the research on movement and environmentally sustainable energy is the fact that it enhances our sense of responsibility in how we as individuals navigate in a world defined by plurality and polyphony."

Source: BMW World


2009: Robin Rhode's BMW Z4

Imagine a canvas nearly as large as a football field. On it bold, swirling shapes in primary colors like red, yellow and blue. As the eye uncovers the rhythm of the lines, curves, circles and color splotches, something else is revealed: these forms must have been created by tire treads! A work of art like no other, created by an artist like no other - the new BMW Z4 Roadster."This work is an expression of painting in action - my hope is to communicate the power and thrill inherent in the creatio
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

Imagine a canvas nearly as large as a football field. On it bold, swirling shapes in primary colors like red, yellow and blue. As the eye uncovers the rhythm of the lines, curves, circles and color splotches, something else is revealed: these forms must have been created by tire treads! A work of art like no other, created by an artist like no other - the new BMW Z4 Roadster.

"This work is an expression of painting in action - my hope is to communicate the power and thrill inherent in the creation of art," said Rhode. "For me, the use of an untraditional paintbrush like a high performance car is a great way to investigate the relationship between emotion, technology and industrial creativity." The development of the picture, this process of formation itself is as important as the completed oeuvre. For this reason the Z4 performance is suggestively titled "An Expression of Joy".

The powerful and vibrant images created by the treads on the huge canvas appear dynamic and spontaneous, as if created out of the whim of the moment. Yet each movement had been painstakingly planned to the last detail and was the result of an immense technical effort. Unlike the legendary "action paintings" created by Jackson Pollock nothing was left to chance. As an artist working at the cutting edge of performing and fine arts, Robin Rhode is an experienced planner and capable of organizing and directing a large technical staff, but with "An Expression of Joy" even he broke new ground.

Source: BMW World


2010: Jeff Koons' BMW M3 GT2

At the premiere of the 17th BMW Art Car, Jeff Koons unveiled and signed his car in front of 300 international guests in the Centre Pompidou, one of the world’s most prestigious cultural institutions for modern and contemporary art. It is the same place where Roy Lichtenstein presented and signed the first Art Car back in 1977.As part of his creative process, Koons collected images of race cars, related graphics, vibrant colors, speed and explosions. The resulting artwork of bright colors conceiv
Photo: BMW Group PressClub Global

At the premiere of the 17th BMW Art Car, Jeff Koons unveiled and signed his car in front of 300 international guests in the Centre Pompidou, one of the world’s most prestigious cultural institutions for modern and contemporary art. It is the same place where Roy Lichtenstein presented and signed the first Art Car back in 1977.

As part of his creative process, Koons collected images of race cars, related graphics, vibrant colors, speed and explosions. The resulting artwork of bright colors conceived by Koons is evocative of power, motion and bursting energy. Its silver interior along with the powerful exterior design, the Art Car will impart a dynamic appearance even when it’s standing still.

“These race cars are like life, they are powerful and there is a lot of energy,” said Koons. “You can participate with it, add to it and let yourself transcend with its energy. There is a lot of power under that hood and I want to let my ideas transcend with the car – it’s really to connect with that power.”

Video: Jeff Koons' BMW Art CarSource: BMW World


BMW: A Driving Obsession

CNBC’s "BMW: A Driving Obsession" goes inside to discover the essence of one of the most successful brands on earth, where every dimension of the cars and company is engineered in search of perfection.

CNBC’s "BMW: A Driving Obsession" goes inside to discover the essence of one of the most successful brands on earth, where every dimension of the cars and company is engineered in search of perfection.