As head of BMW’s cultural engagement, Thomas Girst is deeply passionate about arts and ideas. He involves the company in some really interesting projects which not only help these artists and institutions – many of whom rely entirely on corporate sponsorship – but the partnerships also subtly boost BMW’s brand image externally and internally.
Of course, there’s always been a mutually seductive rapport between art and money – and BMW isn’t alone even among car companies to tap into the art world. Yet, not all sponsorships and patronages feel genuine. Some are so off the rail you do wonder who signed the cheque. Girst’s work, though, is different. His choices are relevant to the brand and are topical. They can also be daring – be it exploring the virtual real, the seducing powers of technology, or the plight of the refugee. The latest partnership looks at the climate crisis with Leelee Chan, the winner of the BMW Art Journey with Art Basel, examining how ancient materials and their future substitutes from the fields of nanotechnology and biotechnology inform our debate around ecological and cultural sustainability.
I spoke with Girst following the Art Journey announcement to see where he feels the art world is heading. And he spoke passionately about the vital need for corporations to sponsor and support the arts in the post-pandemic world. He also offered some valuable tips as to how businesses can best get involved with the creative world. Take a closer look here
BMW Group Culture support some interesting cultural programmes including the Art Journey initiative with Art Basel which encourages the chosen artist to let the experience of their journey organically mould the artwork. Last year US artist Jamal Cyrus travelled to Europe, Africa and Latin America, tracing the migration of slaves to assess their cultural impact along their journey. In the previous year, the British artist Abigail Reynolds took on lost libraries along the Silk Road. This year the Berlin-based Zac Langdon-Pole will follow the flight path of birds, travelling along the earth’s axis through Central Europe and the Pacific Islands as a way of understanding how cultures intersect with the science of celestial mapping – how this flows into larger existential inquiries about who we are, and our role in this world.