BMW Art Collection: the history

Automotive Design 17 Mar 2006
BMW Art Collection: the history

Bmw is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Art Cars Collection and the 16th Art Car will be unveiled during the next weeks. We take this chance to chronicle the story of this unique collection, with a series of daily articles.


BMW Art Collection is a unique link between the automotive and the art world.

From today on, we will publish a series of fifteen daily articles – one for each BMW Art Car, starting with the first BMW Art Car, the 3.0 CSL by Alexander Calder.

The Collection

The first BMW Art Car, the 3.0 CSL by Alexander Calder (1975)

The first BMW Art Car, the 3.0 CSL by

Alexander Calder (1975) The initial idea for the collection, which was to have an automobile redesigned by an artist, was introduced by Hervé Poulain, an auctioneer and ardent racing driver from France. It was upon his initiative that his American friend, renowned artist Alexander Calder, transformed his BMW racing car – a BMW 3.0 CSL – in 1975.

The first vehicle to establish a symbiosis between the world of art and the world of motorsport later participated in the 24-hour race at Le Mans. Prompted by enormous enthusiasm for this work of art on wheels, BMW then decided to put its brilliant idea of establishing the Art Car Collection into practice.

In the years that followed, this unique combination of motorsport and design fascinated the famous artists of our time – Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol have all turned BMW racing sportscars into Art Cars.

The spectrum of designated models widened in the ‘80s; the painted bodywork was no longer restricted to racing cars that had taken part in the renowned 24-hour race at Le Mans, but now encompassed all BMW production models.

The concept of BMW automobiles as mobile canvases of symbolism and expression raced around the track creating stunning visuals envisioned by many esteemed artists.

This historical collection examines connections between auto technology and cultural trends during the 70s, 80s and 90s. Together, the art cars form a mirror of contemporary culture, as exemplary as it is unique.

1975 - Alexander Calder (USA) BMW 3.0 CSL
1976 - Frank Stella (USA) BMW 3.0 CSL
1977 - Roy Lichtenstein (USA) - BMW 320i Group 5 Race Version
1979 - Andy Warhol (USA) - BMW M1 Group 4 Race Version
1975 – Alexander Calder (USA) BMW 3.0 CSL
1976 – Frank Stella (USA) BMW 3.0 CSL
1977 – Roy Lichtenstein (USA) – BMW 320i Group 5 Race Version
1979 – Andy Warhol (USA) – BMW M1 Group 4 Race Version
1982 - Ernst Fuchs (A) - BMW 635 CSi
1986 - Robert Rauschenberg (USA) - BMW 635 CSi
1989 - Ken Done (AUS) - BMW M3 Group A Race Version
1989 - Michael Jagamara Nelson (AUS) - BMW M3 Group A
1982 – Ernst Fuchs (A) – BMW 635 CSi
1986 – Robert Rauschenberg (USA) – BMW 635 CSi
1989 – Ken Done (AUS) – BMW M3 Group A Race Version
1989 – Michael Jagamara Nelson (AUS) – BMW M3 Group A
1990 - Matazo Kayama (J) - BMW 535i
1990 - César Manrique (E) - BMW 730i
1991 - A.R. Penck (D) - BMW Z1
1991 - Esther Mahlangu (ZA) - BMW 525i
1990 – Matazo Kayama (J) – BMW 535i
1990 – César Manrique (E) – BMW 730i
1991 – A.R. Penck (D) – BMW Z1
1991 – Esther Mahlangu (ZA) – BMW 525i
1992 - Sandro Chia (I) - BMW Racing Touring Car
1995 - David Hockney (GB) - BMW 850 CSi
1999 - Jenny Holzer (USA) - BMW V12 LMR
2006 - Olafur Eliasson (ISL) - BMW H2R
1992 – Sandro Chia (I) – BMW Racing Touring Car
1995 – David Hockney (GB) – BMW 850 CSi
1999 – Jenny Holzer (USA) – BMW V12 LMR
2006 – Olafur Eliasson (ISL) – BMW H2R

The Art Cars reflect the cultural-historical development of art, design and technology and have been exhibited at museums around the world, including the Louvre in Paris, the Royal Academy in London, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and at the Guggenheim museums in New York and Bilbao. BMW Art Cars will also continue to document the fascinating symbiosis of art and technology at future international exhibitions.

The final work of the series to date was completed by the American concept artist Jenny Holzer, who covered the surface of a BMW V12 Le Mans racing car with her word art known as “truisms.”

The 16th BMW Art Car, commissioned to Olafur Eliasson, will be unveiled during the next weeks.

Chronological list of all Art Cars:

Production cars:

Racing Cars:

  • 1989 – Ken Done (AUS) – BMW M3 Group A Race Version
  • 1990 – Matazo Kayama (J) – BMW 535i
  • 1990 – César Manrique (E) – BMW 730i
  • 1991 – A.R. Penck (D) – BMW Z1
  • 1991 – Esther Mahlangu (ZA) – BMW 525i
  • 1992 – Sandro Chia (I) – BMW Racing Touring Car

Prototypes:

  • 1995 – David Hockney (GB) – BMW 850 Csi
  • 1999 – Jenny Holzer (USA) – BMW V12 LMR
  • 2006 – Olafur Eliasson (ISL) – BMW H2R

BMW Art Cars Scale Models

BMW released a series of Art Car 1:18 scale models. They are available at selected museum shops and at BMW dealers worldwide. For additional information, visit www.bmw-online.com.

(Source: Bmw)


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