2012 BMW Art Cars in Shoreditch

1977 BMW 320 Group 5 Race Car by Roy Lichtenstein

The ICA brought the BMW Art Car collection to London as part of their Art Drive! exhibition. The setting is the brutalist Great Eastern Street Car Park in Shoreditch, a tough environment for photography but appropriate in many ways

The Art Cars started with Hervé Poulain – racing driver & auctioneer, and Alexander Calder – renowned sculptor and creator of mobiles. Poulain conceived the idea of painting a car and asked his friend Calder to take on the commission. To help find a suitable car they were referred by Jean Todt to Jochen Neerpasch, head of BMW Motorsport, and the Art Car series was born. Calder’s design was implemented by BMW bodywork specialist Walter Maurer and the finished car was shown at the Musée de Artes Décoratifs in Paris and the Haus Der Kunst in Berlin before starting the 1975  24-Hour Race at Le Mans

In 1976 Frank Stella created the Graph Paper car, again based on a BMW 3.0 CSL. The basic shape, in racing trim, is outrageous and the grid of squares and artwork emphasise the dynamic shape

Star of the show for me is the Roy Lichtenstein BMW 320 race car. It seems to capture the essence of the Art Cars with sheer brio and dynamism. It finished 9th at the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in 1977

I was surprised how striking the Andy Warhol car is. Whereas the earlier cars were crafted by Walter Maurer to the designs of the artist, Warhol hand-painted the BMW M1, with 4″ brush and pots of Sikkens enamel, in thirty-four minutes. This was the third attempt – previous versions had been rejected by Poulain, prompting Warhol to fly to Munich to paint the car in person

The car raced at Le Mans in 1979 before joining the others in the Art Car Collection, the spattered & streaked finish and obvious brush strokes perfectly preserved. The car came out of retirement for the 30th anniversary of the M1 and was raced at the Hockenheimring as part of the Formula 1 supporting program. At the wheel: Jochen Neerspasch

To me Warhol’s car seems to mark the divide in the collection between race cars and road cars and between the form and colour of the early cars and the more considered later works


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  1. Pingback: BMW Art Cars - MBClub UK - Bringing together Mercedes Enthusiasts

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