Design and racing icons -Art Car exhibition at BMW World

BMW Headquarters commemorated its awesome Art Car series with an exhibition covering many decades and racing series.

2y ago

Until February, the largest and most impressive segment of the BMW Museum was dedicated to the Art Car series, with a versatile collection of cars and artefacts that awaited visitors until February this year.

In addition to seven of the 19 cars ever created, the special exhibition also pays tribute to the work of Hervé Poulain. As an auctioneer and racing driver, Mr. Poulain was firmly embedded into both art circles and the motorsport world.

When he decided to race in Le Mans, he brought together the most iconic artists to provide a stylish livery for BMW race cars. The exhibition presents a range of documents from his collection alongside works from the visual arts with themes dedicated to motorsport.

The first four Art Cars that took centre stage were designed by the artists Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. These cars are often referred in BMW circles as the “Big Four”.

The first floor stages the rolling sculpture #17 designed by Jeff Koons as part of the permanent exhibition.

At the end of the segment, the latest BMW Art Cars #18 by Chinese video artist Cao Fei and #19 by US artist John Baldessari provide the final impressions. The latter two cars celebrated their premiere in Europe as part of this exhibition.

Although I had the opportunity to admire Art Cars exhibited at various shows and museums, was again reminded to the ingenuity of Andy Warhol. While it might appear as a random smear of paintings that the Artist had in excess at home, the car looks great in real life, and most impressively.

From each corner, Warhol’s Art Car seems like a completely different car. It’s a small addition that he used the M1, one of my favourite BMWs, that also celebrated its 40th birthday last year.

This work of art on wheels was employed in racing for the first and last time in the 24-hour race at Le Mans in 1979. The M1 designed by Warhol started on the grid with the number 76 and was driven by Manfred Winkelhock as well as Hervé Poulain and Marcel Mignot. They achieved a sixth place in the overall rating and second place in their class.

The other car that I particularly liked was the very first piece of BMW’s Art Car series, designed by Alexander Calder, who started his career as an engineer, with a strong artistic heritage, entering in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps as a sculptor. He was most noted for his abstract mobiles which were hailed by critics as the most innovative American sculptures of the 20th century.

The BMW 3.0 CSL, with which Alexander Calder laid the foundation for the Art Car Collection in 1975, was also one of his final works of art before his death. As in the case of his sculptures and mobiles, he used intense colours and gracefully sweeping surfaces which he distributed generously over the wings, bonnet and roof.

The Art Car designed by Alexander Calder was the first one to appear on a racetrack too, driven in the 24-hour race at Le Mans in 1975 by Hervé Poulain. It was also the first and last time the car was used in racing, the car has been on display since then.

The most recent cars are the #18 black M6 designed by Chinese video artist Cao Fei and the #19 white M6 by US artist John Baldessari. The two cars entered endurance races of the FIA GT World Cup.

After this segment, I got to see the most controversial exhibition of the BMW World, dedicated to the future (or replacement) of driving. The Visionary mobility exhibition, BMW’s sheer driving legacy gave way to alternative energy, autonomous driving, car sharing and sustainable town planning – the future is upon us.

For now? I decided to publish here only the Art Car and the Visionary mobility exhibitions, but those who are sure of never make it to the BMW World, can check out the full report on my personal website:


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