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BMW Art Car

The BMW Art Car Project was introduced by the French racecar driver and auctioneer Hervé Poulain, who wanted to invite an artist to create a canvas on an automobile.

In 1975, Poulain commissioned American artist and friend Alexander Calder to paint the first BMW Art Car. This first example would be a BMW 3.0 CSL which Poulain himself would race in the 1975 Le Mans endurance race.[1]

Since Calder's work of art, many other renowned artists throughout the world have created BMW Art Cars, including David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. To date, a total of 17 BMW Art Cars, based on both racing and regular production vehicles, have been created. Frank Stella also made one unofficial art car at the behest of race car driver Peter Gregg. The most recent artist to the join BMW Art Car program is Jeff Koons in 2010 with his M3 GT2, which competed in the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans but did not finish.[2] Artists for the BMW Art Car Project are chosen by a panel of international judges.

According to Thomas Girst, who has been in charge of the BMW Art Cars project since 2004, the purpose of the project has changed over time: "In the beginning the cars were raced. There wasn't much of a public relations effort around them... Since then, some of the Art Cars have been used in advertisements to show that BMW is a player in the arts. With the Eliason work, part of what we are doing is raising awareness of alternative and renewable energy sources."[3]

BMW Art Cars

Art Car No. Photo Artist Art Car Year
1 File:Calder CSL.jpg Alexander Calder BMW 3.0 CSL 1975
2 File:Stella5.JPG Frank Stella BMW 3.0 CSL 1976
3 File:BMW Group 5 320i Roy Lichtenstein 1977.jpg Roy Lichtenstein BMW 320i Turbo 1977
4 File:Warhol1.JPG Andy Warhol BMW M1 Group 4 1979
5 File:Ernst Fuchs Feuerfuchs.JPG Ernst Fuchs BMW 635 CSi 1982
6 File:Rauschenberg1.JPG Robert Rauschenberg BMW 635 CSi 1986
7 File:Michael Nelson Jagamarra BMW Art Car.jpg Michael Nelson Jagamarra BMW M3 1989
8 File:1989 M3 Group A Art Car by Ken Done front.jpg Ken Done BMW M3 Group A 1989
9 File:Art Car no. 9, 535i Matazo Kayama, 1990.jpg Matazo Kayama BMW 535i 1990
10 File:BMWArtCar-Manrique.JPG Cesar Manrique BMW 730i 1990
11 File:1991 BMW Z1 Art Car by A. R. Penck high angle.jpg A. R. Penck BMW Z1 1991
12 File:BMWArtCar-Mahlangu.jpg Esther Mahlangu BMW 525i 1991
13 File:BMWArtCar-Chia2.jpg Sandro Chia BMW M3 GTR 1992
14 File:BMW Art Car no. 14, 850CSi David Hockney (1995).jpg David Hockney BMW 850 CSi 1995
15 File:BMW V12 LMR.jpg Jenny Holzer[4] BMW V12 LMR 1999
16 Olafur Eliasson[5] BMW H2R 2007
* File:BMW Z4 2009 NY 2.jpg Robin Rhode[6] BMW Z4 2009
17 File:BMW M3 GT2 Art Car-Le Mans 2010.jpg Jeff Koons[7][8] BMW M3 GT2 2010

* The 2009 project by Robin Rhode did not create an art car, but rather used a BMW Z4 driven over a giant canvas to create a work by applying paint with the car's tires.


Between 2003 and 2005, BMW released the first 15 Art Cars (at the time, this encompassed the entire series) as 1:18 scale miniature diecast vehicles, manufactured by Minichamps. The first two to be released were Alexander Calder's BMW 3.0 CSL and Jenny Holzer's BMW V12 LMR. The Art Cars were sold through BMW Automobile Dealerships, select Museum shops, as well as directly from BMW. Initially 3000 copies were to be produced with an MSRP of $125 (now $145) each.[9]

Public display

In 2009, the Art Cars began a North American tour, starting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from February 12–24. The second stop was in New York City from March 24 - April 6 at Grand Central Terminal - Vanderbilt Hall.[10] The Cars were exhibited in México, first in MARCO, Monterrey, and later in Guadalajara and Mexico City.[11] In July 2012 a selection of the cars were presented by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in a Shoreditch car park as part of the London 2012 Festival, entitled Art Drive!.[12]

Unofficial BMW Art Cars

File:Signatures of BMW art car by Brian Redman and David Hobbs.jpg
signatures on the BMW art car dash signed by Brian Redman and David Hobbs.
File:Kunstauto Maurer.jpg
Unofficial BMW Art Car by Walter Maurer

Furthermore, the German artist, painter and graphic designer Walter Maurer designed BMW cars according to his own ideas. In 2013 the artist Andy Reiben created an artwork called 3 Series Fluidum. Iridescent, fluorescent and photo luminescent paints were used to create a unique BMW 3 Series (F30) car.[13]

In addition to the work commissioned by BMW a couple of artists created unofficial BMW Art Cars. In 1979 racing driver Peter Gregg purchased a BMW M1 Pro Car and commissioned his friend Frank Stella to paint it for him; this car is the only BMW painted by an artist who was also part of BMW's own Art Car program.[14] and was sold from the Guggenheim Museum to a BMW dealer in Long Island, New York in 2011.[15] The car is part of Stella's "Polar Coordinates" series, created to commemorate Stella's friend Ronnie Peterson who had died in a racing incident at Monza in 1978.[14][16] In 1987 Keith Haring painted a red BMW Z1 at Hans Mayer Gallery, Düsseldorf.[17]


  1. ^ "Welcome Home BMW Art Cars". Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  2. ^ "BMW Art Car retirement report". Retrieved June 13, 2010. 
  3. ^ Preece, R.J. (June 11, 2009). 'Communicating BMW Art Cars: Interview with Thomas Girst.' ADP/Sculpture magazine. Retrieved October 18, 2009
  4. ^ BMW V12 LMR - Jenny Holzer 1999 photo gallery,, 2007 
  5. ^ "BMW Release Plans For 16th Art Car (press release)", Motor Trend 
  6. ^ BMW Z4 art car - Robin Rhode 2009,, 2007 
  7. ^ Peterson, Andrew (2 February 2010), "Artist Jeff Koons to Create A New BMW Art Car", Automobile (magazine), archived from the original on 6 February 2010, retrieved 2010-02-03 
  8. ^ Migliore, Greg (2 June 2010), "New BMW Art Car, the 17th, revealed for Le Mans", Autoweek 
  9. ^ 'BMW introduces scale models of art cars' Retrieved June 18, 2009.
  10. ^ Joseph, Noah. (February 12, 2009). 'BMW's Art Cars start North American tour in Los Angeles' Retrieved June 18, 2009.
  11. ^ 'La colección de automóviles artísticos BMW Art Cars llega a México (in Spanish)' Retrieved June 5, 2009.[dead link]
  13. ^ "BMW 3 Series Sedan by Andy Reiben". The BMW Art Car Collection. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Patton, Phil (2011-05-09). "BMW M1, Painted by Frank Stella, Heading to Auction". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-06. 
  15. ^ "Frank Stella’s BMW Art Car Sells to Private Collector". Gallerist. New York. 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2014-03-06. 
  16. ^ "Stella Art Car To Go On Public Display At BMW Southampton". Hamptons Online. 2011-11-03. 
  17. ^ "Haring im Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen". (in German). 2000. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 

External links

  • "BMW Art Car Tour". Retrieved June 20, 2013.  An overview of BMW Art Cars with videos and a lot of information.