40 years of BMW Art Cars.

Lichtenstein. Warhol. Koons. Stella. Calder. Rauschenberg. Holzer. Elíasson. Since a BMW 3.0 CSL painted by Alexander Calder lined up for the Le Mans 24-hour race exactly 40 years ago, the BMW Art Car Collection has enthralled both art and design enthusiasts as well as car and technology fans all around the world.

The idea behind BMW Art Cars was the brainchild of French racing driver and art enthusiast Hervé Poulain. 40 years ago, he asked artist friend Alexander Calder to apply his creative talents to his race car. Together with Jochen Neerpasch, then BMW Motorsport Director, the first BMW Art Car was born – and it became an instant crowd favourite on the race track. Since then, additions to the BMW Art Car Collection have been made over the years at irregular intervals, with works of art from artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney and Jeff Koons.

The 40th anniversary celebrations got under way recently with exhibitions in Hong Kong, at the Centre Pompidou, the BMW Museum and the Concorso d’Eleganza at Lake Como, where the first four BMW Art Cars by Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, plus the M3 GT2 created by Jeff Koons, were all on display. Further presentations are set to follow later in 2015 in New York, Miami and Shanghai.

The group of seventeen artists who have designed BMW models so far since 1975 is very international. Several cars are usually on display at the BMW Museum in Munich, the home of the BMW Art Cars, as part of its permanent collection. The remaining BMW Art Cars are travelling the globe – to art fairs in Los Angeles, London and Hong Kong, as well as exhibitions at the Louvre, the Guggenheim and the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai.

To date, many of the BMW Art Cars have not only turned heads in museums, but have also – in their earlier life – done so on the race track: Alexander Calder (3.0 CSL, 1975), Frank Stella (3.0 CSL, 1976), Roy Lichtenstein (320 Group 5, 1977), Andy Warhol (M1 Group 4, 1979), Ernst Fuchs (635CSi, 1982), Robert Rauschenberg (635CSi, 1986), Michael Jagamara Nelson (M3 Group A, 1989), Ken Done (M3 Group A, 1989), Matazo Kayama (535i, 1990), César Manrique (730i, 1990), A. R. Penck (Z1, 1991), Esther Mahlangu (525i, 1991), Sandro Chia (M3 GTR, 1992), David Hockney (850CSi, 1995), Jenny Holzer (V12 LMR, 1999), Ólafur Elíasson (H2R, 2007) and Jeff Koons (M3 GT2, 2010).

BMW is also asking people what the ‘art of the car’ means to them. To track the content generated, BMW is using the hashtag #BMWArtCar.