Many drivers consider their cars pieces of art, but only one maker – BMW – has officially created moving canvasses that have become icons.
The BMW Art Car Project started when the French race car driver Hervé Poulain commissioned his American friend and sculptor Alexander Calder to paint a BMW 3.0 CSL which he raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1975.
At first the project focussed on designing eye-catching liveries for racing cars from the BMW stable, many of which participated in races like Le Mans.
Once retired, they were then preserved for display.
It was only in 1982 that the first production vehicle, a 635 CSI, was painted by Ernst Fuchs – setting the tone for the next few cars.
These included a 1991 525i painted by the South African Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu, as a homage to African culture.
Perhaps the strangest example, however, was the Prototype BMW Hydrogen V12 – which was transformed into a fragile sculpture of metal, ice and light that never moved.
And then Cao Fei’s 2017 installation that featured a static plain carbon-bodied M6 GT2 race car which used augmented reality to overlay moving artwork in a “digital world”.
The two most iconic models are the BMW M1 Group 4 Procar painted by Andy Warhol in 1979, and the successful Le Mans BMW M3 GT2 painted by Jeff Koons in 2010 – because it’s one of the most striking, functional, and beautiful designs yet.
A total of 19 official BMW Art Cars have been created in the 45 years of the project, and we can’t wait to see what is next.