Art Drive: The BMW Art car collection

Art and money have always had a mutually seductive rapport – artists need the patronage of industry, industry the positive kudos this union can bring. And the outcome can often be quite intriguing as is the case with some of the art cars painted by leading names in the world of modern art and commissioned by BMW .

The German marque has a 35-year history of commissioning art cars, dating back to 1975 when racecar driver Hervé Poulain commissioned his friend the American artist Alexander Calder to paint the 3.0 CSL, which he then raced at Le Mans. Calder was soon followed by art world heavyweights David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol to name a few. All the artists involved in the BMW project, bar Olafur Eliasson, who worked with the H2R hydrogen car, have worked with racecars.

As part of the London 2012 Festival leading up to the Olympics, the Institute of Contemporary Art has take over a car park in Shoreditch, East London to show the collection – normally housed in the BMW museum in Munich – for the first time in the UK.

Art drive – the BMW art car collection’ features 16 international artists over six floors. Highlights include Hockney’s 1995 art car where the artist paints the inside of the car on the outside, revealing everything from internal engine parts to a dog in the back. Rauschenberg incorporates photographic transfers of Ingres paintings while Warhol, Lichtenstein and Koons use the canvas of the car – the metal – to express speed.

It is highly intriguing to see how each artist has responded to the challenge. For BMW too the project has been an educational one as Adrian van Hooydonk, director of design, told me a little while ago. He noted that the experience of working on art car projects has helped him see how relevant his work is in the real world.

He said he feels that working with artists ‘gives you a feedback from society. Modern art is more than ever part of popular culture – in many ways it is a mirror to society. It’s therefore good to hear that they believe in what we do.’ Artists like Koons famously work within big teams. ‘There are a lot of similarities in our jobs.’

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Art Drive the BMW Art car collection will run from 21 July – 4 August 2012 at NCP Great Eastern Street Car Park, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3ER.

We met Koons back in 2010 at the Pompidou Centre in Paris as he unveiled his BMW art car. Read the interview here. Also read more on on the car and what BMW’s design boss Adrian van Hooydonk had to say about it in Car Design News.

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