In 1975, US artist Alexander Calder was inspired by the French auctioneer and racing driver, Herve Poulain, to produce the very first BMW Art Car. With the involvement of then BMW Motorsport Director, Jochen Neerpasch, the BMW Art Car was born – it became an immediate fan favorite.
Calder used primary colors and distributed them in board strokes across the BMW 3.0 CSL. The use of various colors with individual elements of the car’s structure added illusion of movement. Presented as a work of art, the car was a sensation. It was the first true-to-life medium that created a new perspective of color and shape in motion.
Two years later, pop art legend Andy Warhol was commissioned to paint the fourth BMW Art Car, a BMW M1. Warhol painted directly on the full-scale car unlike artists before him who created their designs on maquettes, or 1:5 scale models, and had technicians reproduce their design. Warhol added a personal touch by running his fingers through the paint, which he is reported to have spent a total of 23 minutes painting the car.
Warhol once explained, “I tried to portray speed pictorially. If a car is moving really quickly, all the lines and colors are blurred.”
In 1975, the Art Car designed by Calder was driven in the Le Mans 24-Hour Race by the American Sam Posey, the Frenchmen Jean Guichet and Herve Poulain. In 1979, the Art Car designed by Warhol raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans driven by Manfred Winkelhock of Germany, the Frenchmen Hervé Poulain and Marcel Mignot.
This year, the famed BMW Art Car Collection celebrates its 40th anniversary of art, design, car and technology. Over the years, unique works of art have been produced by prominent artists such as Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney and Jeff Koons. Artists drew inspiration from the sensation of mobility as modern art sculptures.
BMW started anniversary celebrations with exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou in Hong Kong, the BMW Museum and the Concorso d’Eleganza at Lake Como, where the first four Art Cars were on display by Calder, Stella, Litchenstein, Warhol and Koons, who created the M3 GT2. Later this year, a collection of 17 BMW Art Cars will travel to New York, Miami and Shanghai.
“Where everything is already perfect, there can be no fulfillment.” — Alexander Calder
For more information, visit the BMW Art Car Collection.
Watch a clip of the BMW Art Car by Andy Warhol: