In 1979 Andy Warhol designed the 4th Art Car for the BMW Art Car Project. Unlike the previous artists he worked directly on the full-scale vehicle, which was destined to race in Le Mans. Warhol painted the car himself, and in his own words “I tried to portray a sense of speed. When a car is going really fast all the lines and colors become a blur.”
BMW Art Cars have been designed and painted by numerous artists over the years, such as Frank Stella, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Ernst Fuchs, Ken Done, David Hockney among others.
The "BMW Art Car" Project was introduced by the French racecar driver and auctioneer Herve' Poulain, who wanted to invite an artist to create a canvas on an automobile. In 1975, Poulain commissioned American artist and friend Alexander Calder to paint the first BMW Art Car. This first example would be a BMW 3.0 CSL which Poulain himself would race in the 1975 Le Mans Endurance race.
To date, a total of 17 BMW Art Cars, based on both racing and regular production vehicles, have been created. The most recent artist to the join BMW Art Car program is Jeff Koons in 2010 with his M3 GT2, which competed in the 2010 24 Hours of LeMans but did not finish. Artists for the BMW Art Car Project are chosen by a panel of international judges. According to Thomas Girst, who has been in charge of the BMW Art Cars project since 2004, the purpose of the project has changed over time: "In the beginning the cars were raced. There wasn't much of a public relations effort around them... Since then, some of the Art Cars have been used in advertisements to show that BMW is a player in the arts."
The name Andy Warhol is nowadays almost synonymous with pop art. He studied from 1945 to 1949 at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, and immediately after this started a career as a successful graphic artist in the advertising sector with his work going on display as early as 1952 in New York.
Andy set about this project in his equally unabashed manner after being commissioned to transform a BMW M1 into a BMW Art Car as he thought best. All the other artists who had previously decorated BMW racing cars had done so by painting a draft version on a scaled-down model; this was then transposed to the actual car by assistants under the artist’s supervision. Warhol, however, was the first to paint everything himself. By transferring his ideas to the car in this spontaneous and direct manner, he could clearly stamp his own character on it.
“I adore the car, it’s much better than a work of art.” — Andy Warhol
Warhol passed away in 1987 in New York.
All images courtesy of The BMW Art Car Collection.
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