Journal: Blank Canvas BMWs Inspire Intriguing Art

Blank Canvas BMWs Inspire Intriguing Art

By Petrolicious Productions
May 25, 2013

As far as blank canvasses go, there’s no more of an intriguing tabula rasa than a brand-new, all-white racing BMW. Box flares, aerodynamic devices, air intakes, and wildly varying surface shapes and sizes make for an interesting and challenging way for an artist to express what is usually limited to only two dimensions on three, and in the process shedding a new light on familiar themes and painting styles.

The very first Art Car was a 3.0 CSL commissioned by French racer and art auctioneer Hervé Poulain, painted by famed mobile artist and metal sculptor Alexander Calder in 1975. Poulain drove the car in that year’s Le Mans 24 Hour, and the huge publicity it gained caused a stir among both the art community and within BMW themselves, who recognized a fantastic and unique promotional opportunity.

In total, 17 BMW’s have been made into Art Cars, with notable examples painted by Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol, who declined the use of a scale model on which to practice and instead painted directly onto his M1 with large brushes dipped directly into cans of pigment—he took 23 minutes from start to finish.

Though the focus behind the Art Car project has shifted slightly over the years to include road as well as race models, the idea remains the same—mutual celebration of the arts and Munich’s best driving machines.

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Terrence Dorsey
Terrence Dorsey
10 years ago

The great thing about these cars is that they were actual racing cars. (Those shown here at least, except the Hockney.) The art cars are among my most favorite thing in automobilia, but I am a snob about it. I only acknowledge those that raced as true art cars in the spirit Hervé Poulain originally intended.

I have been fortunate enough to see the Stella, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Rauschenberg and Koons cars up close and in person. My preference is for the early box flares and pop art abstraction of the first three cars. The Warhol does less for me, both the car and the overall design, but there’s great character in seeing the artist’s actual paint strokes (and runs, and drips) on the car.

The Calder is my favorite of all. The E9 shape plus Calder’s amazing art. And it’s the first. The Lichtenstein runs a very close second. Who doesn’t love giant box flares on a 3er? 9th overall and second in class. Incredible.

Philip Retelius
Philip Retelius
10 years ago

is it possible to use these designs on road cars? 🙂

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