MUNICH, Germany--They've been shown in some of the temples of the art world--the Louvre in Paris, and the Guggenheim museums in both New York and Bilbao, Spain. They've been featured in television commercials. And they are the work of some of the most famous artists of the 20th century.
These are not paintings, though. These are cars. The BMW art cars, to be exact: a group of 17 BMWs that have been personally adopted by a group of the most celebrated pop artists in history. While the vehicles have raced in Le Mans and toured the world, they've never before been all together at BMW's own museum here.
Until now. Through September 25, almost all of these 17 art cars will be on display at the BMW Museum, giving those who visit a chance to see what happens when famous artists try their hand at an all new kind of canvas.
The project began in 1975 when the world-renowned sculptor and kinetic artist Alexander Calder was asked by his friend Herve Poulain to paint a BMW race car. And 17 cars later, Jeff Koons got to try his hand at the series.
But only one of the artists actually painted his car himself--the others had created maquettes off of which the work was done. Only the famous Andy Warhol actually painted his car.
Indeed, Warhol painted one of BMW's most illustrious cars ever, an M1, (shown left) and he did the whole job in 28 minutes. In fact, he finished so fast, a TV crew that had been hired to document the work was too late to capture it.
The most recent addition to the BMW art car collection is this masterpiece by Jeff Koons. The 17th in the series is an M3 GT2 that first saw the light of day in 2010 at the Pompidou Center in Paris and later raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Here is Roy Lichtenstein's 1977 addition to the collection, a BMW 320 Group 5. If you know Lichtenstein's work, you can recognize this as his instantly. Here, it is seen at the BMW Museum in Munich from the left side.
Artist Olafur Eliasson decided to make his BMW art car a statement about climate change. Rather than paint a car, Eliasson cast a BMW H2R 12-cylinder hydrogen concept engine in ice. It was the 16th work in the collection and was completed in 2007.
The BMW art car collection has two submissions from Australian artists--one an aboriginal work, the other a Western work. This is artist Michael Jagamara Nelson's aboriginal interpretation of the series, done in 1989 on a BMW M3 Group A Racing Version. Here, it's seen from the left side.
This is Australian artist Ken Done's BMW art car, which he completed in 1989 on a BMW M3 Group A Racing Version. It is the Western counterpoint to Michael Jagamara Nelson's aboriginal interpretation. Here, it is seen from the left side.