On April 6th, international art star, Jeff Koons revealed his design for his BMW art car. The company has been commisioning artists to adorn vehicles since 1975. The project started when Hervé Poulain, an auctioneer and race car driver asked his friend, Alexander Calder, to paint the BMW 3.0 CSL that he planned to drive at 24 Hours of Le Mans. Later art cars have also made their racing debut at the annual competition. 24 Hours of Le Mans has been held every year since 1923. The challenge, which is often referred to as the Grand Prix of Endurance, requires cars and drivers to compete for 24 hours. The vehicles are operated by a team of drivers who switch off periodically to prevent the racer from becoming overly fatigued.
When in action, Koons’ magnificent contribution will be a blur of color. His design involves hundreds of brilliantly hued stripes against a black background emanating outward from the center of the car. Koons conceived of his explosive design as an exterior expression of the vehicle’s incredible power. The car will debut at The Centre Pompidou on June 1st, 11 days before racing at Le Mans on June 12th.
Koons art explores concepts like consumption, decadence and mass production. His intellecual interests make him a perfect candidate for a project that involves adorning a luxury item and celebrating its ability to go fast. The ironic edge to Koons work also prevents the collaboration from seeming overly cheesy. BMW has always been intelligent about selecting artists for the Art Car series. Other participants have included Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, David Hockney and Robert Rauschenberg. Danish artist, Olafur Elliason’s 2007 car marked a particularly interesting collaboration. Elliason’s interest in evironmental sustainability and green design made him a perfect candidate for adorning the BMW H2R race car, which is hydrogen-powered. Elliason removed the car’s outer casing and replaced it with an other worldly construction made of ice and steel. The car was later exhibited as part of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s excellent 2007-2008 retrospective of the artist’s work.
The Art Car series is a brilliant piece of marketing. These vehicles call attention to BMW’s wonderful design efforts. They also add an air of sophistication to the company and its products by associating cars with fine art and high brow culture. Most importantly; however, the art cars are beautiful objects that provide talented artists with an opportunity to stretch their creativity and reach new audiences.