So where is the BMW Art Car Collection at home? All over the world! In particular at top global art venues such as the Louvre in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Anyone wishing to see the entire collection of BMW bodywork designs by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons would have had to travel right around the globe; until now. To mark the 35th anniversary of the founding of this famous collection, and for a limited period only, the complete set of 17 BMW Art Cars has been called back to the place of its birth and is being exhibited in the BMW Museum in Munich. Unique and sensational.

We are delighted: Welcome Home BMW Art Cars.

  • This BMW M3 GT2 was aesthetically reworked by the US artist Jeff Koons and is the latest model in the BMW Art Cars series. It was unveiled to the world at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in June 2010 – to great acclaim! The media and art magazines from all over the world carried reports on the 17th model in the Art Car series. The car bears the racing number 79 – a tribute to the BMW M1 body work-over presented by Andy Warhol in 1979. The striking colours of Koons’ Art Car exude a boisterous sense of power, motion and energy. As with Warhol’s M1, Koons’ BMW also participated in the legendary Le Mans 24-hour race. Koons’ desire to paint up an Art Car was expressed in an interview way back in 2003; an honour for BMW as Koons is one of the most successful concept artists in the world. Even during the recent economic crisis his works demanded immense sums.

  • How are the automobile industry and global warming related? The Danish artist Olafur Eliasson confronted a number of critical issues in generating his Art Car design. The bodywork of the BMW H2R, a hydrogen-powered car used to set speed records while also attempting to develop forward-thinking environmental friendliness, served as a creative stage. The artist removed the outer layer of the prototype and replaced it with a complex skin of steel meshing, shiny metal plates and numerous layers of ice. As with all of Eliasson’s artwork, this one also leaves plenty of room for speculation and discussion.

  • ‘Protect me from what I want’. This and other provocative messages glare at the beholder from the otherwise white bodywork of the 15th Art Car. Instead of chrome, a light and shiny foil was used for the lettering to avoid increasing the weight of the BMW V12 LMR. The twelve cylinder 380 bhp BMW is a true work of art, and a racing car as was seen immediately at the 24-hour race in Le Mans where the 380 bhp Art Car was brought into contact with the tarmac of the racetrack to be presented to the world press after a special lap of honour. Known for being critical of western society, Holzer nevertheless grew up ‘surrounded by cars since I went to kindergarten’ as the daughter of a car dealer. 

  • On the 20.04.1995 the British born artist David Hockney placed his signature on the BMW 850CSi marking the completion of the 14th Art Car and several months of hard work. The artist aimed to portray the very innermost depths of the car. The result was an automobile whose contents were thoroughly turned out to the viewer. The more observant will notice the stylised suction vent on the bonnet and the contours of a driver on the door. Hockney was born in Bradford, England in 1937 and has been one of the most stunning and influential members of the art world since the early 1960s.

  • Italian born painter Sandro Chia was contracted to paint a touring racing car prototype from the BMW 3 series. The silhouettes and portraits on the paintwork challenge the observer to consider looking at himself in the mirror. ‘A car is a coveted object in our society’. Chia explains that, as such a car is exposed to the stares of observers. ‘I decorated the surface of this car to represent these stares’.

    Mobility is certainly of great importance to this artist as he often commutes between his homes in New York, London and Tuscany.

  • The 12th Art Car was the first to have been signed by a woman. This is not the only fact that makes this BMW 525i so special. The South African artist Esther Mahlangu coated the bodywork of the car with the bright colours and clearly distinguishable ornamental shapes typical of her ethnic tribal Ndebele art. The ancient African art could not provide a more striking contrast to such a top-end, high speed, high-tech model capable of reaching 225 km/h. Esther was delighted that the Art Car managed to help introduce her tribal art to such a broad audience.

  • There is a total of 8000 BMW Z1s all over the world, but only one like this. German artist A.R. Penck made sure of that by transforming this particular vehicle into a unique work of art. This bright red Art Car has been adorned with various symbols and images including the artist’s own legendary stick figures. Penck’s car was also inspired by the work of artists such as Picasso and Rembrandt, as well as by early cave painting and a fascination with mathematics and physics. ‘Art on art, art on technology; that grabbed my attention – particularly the idea of art on a 3D element’, stated Penck commenting on his high-tech masterpiece.

  • It’s a shame this Art Car can’t be seen out on the streets. How different the world would look with colourful cars! A question the Spanish artist, César Manrique probably asked himself. He certainly believed that, as everyday objects, cars play an essential role in the appearance of our surroundings. As well as being an architect, graphic designer, sculptor and landscape designer, Manrique was also a conservationist. This inspired him to design an Art Car that embodied a harmonious combination of technology and nature. ‘That’s why I thought of designing the car in such a way as to give the impression of being able to glide through the air without any resistance’, he explained. A great idea – well executed featuring rolling, sweeping lines and lively colours symbolising graceful motions.

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  • The Japanese artist, Matazo Kayama, was presented with a six cylinder in-line engine, 211 bhp BMW 535i to serve as a fresh canvas for his creation. He based his Art Car design on a contract piece done for Tokyo National Museum of Arts. However, by using airbrush techniques he was able to produce a completely new interpretation of the original theme – ‘Snow, moon and cherry blossoms’. Kayama used typical Japanese techniques such as Kirigane (metalcut) and Arare (foil printing). Having completed the Art Car the artist had this to say: ‘I only became completely aware of the clarity in the lineal design of the BMW after having seen the car in its new coloured robes’.

  • What do Art Car no. 7 and 8 have in common? Both were created using the same model - a BMW M3 racing car - and both were adorned with the work of Australian artists. Anyone looking for visual similarities will do so in vain, as these contradictory models are representations of the two main antithetic cultures of the Australian continent. As with the rest of his artwork, Done was not mean with his use of colours on this Art Car. The bright colours and powerful brush strokes are symbolic of modern Australia with its sunny beaches and semi-tropical landscapes. All these impressions of life and joy are embodied by Art Car 7. The bodywork is emblazoned with an abstract portrayal of parrots and parrot fish. What do these animals symbolise? Explaining his creation, Done explained his work as follows: ‘Both are beautiful and move a fantastic speeds. I wanted to express this with the BMW Art Car’.

  • All good things take time. In just seven days the Australian artist Michael Jagamara Nelson transformed a black BMW M3 into a masterpiece of Papunya art. Nelson learned this ancient method of painting from his grandfather and was awarded the national prize for aboriginal art. Papunya artists paint traditional sand picture shapes and forms on canvases; in this case onto the bodywork of a BMW M3. The seemingly abstract, mosaic-like Papunya paintings symbolise landscapes and animals.

    The age of this method of painting was in stark contrast to that of the technology in the eighth BMW Art Car. The 300 bhp Art Car was an immense success in Australian motorsport back then as Tony Longhurst won the Australian championship in 1987 in one of the same cars.

  • ‘Driveable museums would be great. This car is a dream come true for me, gushed Rauschenberg after the presentation of his Art Car in New York. This BMW 635CSi was the sixth Art Car, yet was the first to have its bodywork decorated with photographic material. The right side bears the image of an Ingres painting. The left hand side of the bodywork is adorned with one of Bronzino’s works, surrounded by Rauschenberg’s own pictures of swamp grass in the Everglades - the hub caps have been painted with images of ancient decorative plates. Rauschenberg must have been pleased with the results as he used the motifs on this Art Car for a subsequent work of art a couple of years later.

  • Two ‘firsts’: This was the first Art Car to be created using a serial production BMW and the first Art Car to be enhanced by a European artist, namely by the Vienna art professor, Ernst Fuchs. For the ‘Art as illustration – illustration as art’ exhibition Fuchs was extremely creative in decorating the bodywork of the BMW 635CSi. Ultimately the bodywork served as a screen upon which he was able to project his imagination. Fuchs described his work thus: ‘When painting this car I was able to express a wide range of experiences, fears, desires and invocations, as well as aesthetic, artistic freedom’. ‘A rabbit can be seen running across the motorway at night and leaping over a burning car – a primal fear and a daring dream of defeating the dimensions within which we live. It tells me which colours to choose. I read its lines, its shape and I can hear its call to speed. I see this beautiful rabbit jump through the flames of love – defeating fear itself...’

  • This Art Car is one of the highlights of the collection of artworks on wheels. No lesser person than Andy Warhol immortalised himself in this M1. He even took responsibility for transferring the smaller scale design to the actual bodywork himself with only the aid of his assistant. Warhol explained the bold, bright and lucid brush and finger strokes on the Art Car BMW M1 thus: ‘I tried to portray a sense of speed. When a car is going really fast all the lines and colours become a blur’. Immense speeds were also achieved by this 470 bhp six cylinder automobile at the Le Mans 24-hour race at which the BMW gained the second position in its class. The M1 still finished the race as a winner – definitely in the eyes of the public who were captivated by the sight of this dashing canvas.

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  • Car three by Roy Lichtenstein is one of the most popular of all the Art Cars; the BMW 320 Group 5. The artist had this to say on the fruit of his labours: ‘I invested as much thought and effort as possible’. Undeniably! The result of these efforts is a harmonious combination of the aerodynamics in the bodywork with the aesthetics of his art; after all it is one of the fastest moving pieces of art the world has ever seen. Lichtenstein’s famous comic strip style is reflected in the paintwork. ‘The painted lines symbolise the road the car has to follow and the artwork also portrays the surroundings through which the car is being driven’.

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  • In 1976 this BMW 3.0 CSL shot around the race circuit at 300 km/h at the Le Mans 24-hour race which is nothing out of the ordinary for a BMW race car. What did stand out was the fact that it was a high-speed Art Car designed by Frank Stella. The presentation of the world’s second Art Car generated immense anticipation as the art world was still under the spell of the first BMW Art Car. These expectations were more than satisfied as Stella devised a black and white design based on oversize graph paper. Cut-out lines all over the bodywork intensify the geometric look of the car. Explaining the thinking behind his high-speed work of art, Frank Stella, born in 1936 said, ‘My design is a kind of blueprint applied to the entire body of the car’.

  • The first time a BMW was transformed into a work of art was 1975. Alexander Calder was inspired by the French auctioneer and racing driver, Hervé Poulain, to produce the first ever BMW Art Car. The US artist only used primary colours and distributed them in broad swathes across the paintwork of the BMW 3.0 CSL. The use of differing colours within the individual elements of the car’s structure adds to the illusion of movement within the picture as a whole. Back then the fact that a car was being presented as a work of art was a sensation in itself. The greater sensation was that the selfsame 480 PS BMW was then entered for the 24-hour race in Le Mans. The world’s first BMW Art Car was also one of Calder’s last works of art as he died the same year it was unveiled.