Hervé Poulain from France had the idea. As an art auctioneer and enthusiastic racing driver, he did not see art and motor sport as contradictory. Rather, he regarded the automobile as an artwork in itself. When searching for a suitable “Art Car”, he found an enthusiastic partner in BMW Race Director Jochen Neerpasch. In 1975, Poulain lined up on the starting grid at Le Mans with a BMW 3.0 CSL racing coupé designed by Alexander Calder. This was the premiere and the launchpad for a collection that has now increased to 19 BMW Art Cars. The BMW Museum is now showing seven of these cars in a special exhibition that is running until February 2019.
The American Alexander Calder had gained fame with his coloured installations – rather like large mobiles – and he introduced the element of movement to art. He was immediately enthusiastic about the idea of designing a car. BMW Race Director Jochen Neerpasch and the Head of BWM Press and Public Relations, Dr Horst Avenarius, provided Poulain with a BMW racing sports coupé for his unusual project. Poulain himself was to enter a race driving the car. Calder worked out his first draft on a toy car of the same type before continuing to refine it on a model with a scale of 1:5. Munich paintwork specialist Walter Maurer used this scale model as a template. The first BMW Art Car was presented to the public at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Paris) in May 1975 and later competed in Le Mans as planned. This was the premiere of a success story.
“The automobile is the mythological talisman of the 20th century” – Hervé Poulain.
Meanwhile, there are now 19 BMW Art Cars, a collection that continues to grow. The collection launched a varied and diverse journey through contemporary art, amazing and surprising but never mediocre. While the automobile as such is already an icon of its time expressed in engineering and design, artists are contributing another level to its stature, making it unique and exquisitely valuable.
A distinguished Jury decides which artist should be given the privilege of designing the next BMW. The decision is by no means easy. The BMW model waiting for the design already exists, and the artist is to be given the maximum possible freedom for the interpretation of their Art Car.
Special exhibition – 7 BMW Art Cars in the BMW Museum.
The current exhibition in the BMW Museum shows the first four and the most recent three BMW Art Cars. Alexander Calder was followed by Frank Stella, who created the second BMW Art Car in 1976. His strictly graphical design recalls pattern charts and graph paper. Conversely, Roy Lichtenstein’s works followed the tenets of comics and Pop Art, and his BMW 320i Group 5 racing car provided a stylised representation of a landscape that the racing car appeared to be driving through. Andy Warhol was the first artist who painted the car himself rather than simply supply a draft. His car turned out to be unusually spontaneous and impulsive by comparison with his other works – the BMW M1 Group 4 radiates from thick layers of paint and it took just 28 minutes to create the design. Today, it is probably the most expensive BMW of all times.
Art of the 21st century.
Jeff Koons’ BMW M3 GT2 blurs all the colours and shapes as though it were just rushing past the spectators at a fantastic speed. It reflects art created for racing and the pursuit of record times. The number 18 symbolises luck for the Chinese, and the young Chinese artist Cao Fei designed BMW Art Car no. 18 perhaps for this very reason. The world premiere was held in Beijing in May 2017. Three elements come together here. A video, an app and a BMW M6 GT3 finished entirely in matt black. A complete artwork is only created in the interplay between the three elements. With this work, Cao Fei dared to make the leap into new art forms of the 21st century.
BMW Art Car no. 19 and hence the youngest of them all was designed by John Baldessari, an established master of conceptual art. When the BMW M6 GTLM was finished, it had to prove its credentials in a genuine race. The 24 Hours at the Daytona International Speedway presented challenges for drivers and materials. The race was beset by torrential rain for some of the time and the first place in the GTLM placings demonstrated how seriously BMW takes the challenge of continually finding new ways of combining art and motor sport. Entirely in the spirit of Hervé Poulain who conceived this ingenious idea.
The Art of Racing. The seven Art Cars now exhibited in the BMW Museum have all competed in a genuine race.
The former Director of BMW Motorsport GmbH Jochen Neerpasch and French auctioneer and former racing driver Hervé Poulain standing beside Art Car no.1 where it all began.
Love of detail. The BMW CSL designed by Alexander Calder was painted by paintwork professional Walter Maurer based on a draft by the artist.
Not only the racing car itself but also the drafts on the model, photographs and even helmets are being shown at this exhibition.
BMW Art Car No. 18 was designed by Chinese artist Cao Fei. The number 18 is regarded as a lucky number in China. The latest and so far last BMW Art Car, a BMW M6 GTLM by John Baldessari, is shown alongside.