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Pop artists make BMWs their canvas (photos)

Road Trip 2011: At the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany, the whole collection of art cars is on display and staying put. Briefly.

Daniel Terdiman
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
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1 of 29 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Andy Warhol left

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.

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Warhol right side

This is the right side of Warhol's BMW art car.

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Jeff Koons

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.

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Calder right side

Alexander Calder's BMW art car, a BMW 3.0 CSL, as seen from the right side. It is the first in the 17-car series and was finished in 1975.

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Calder left side

This is Calder's BMW art car, as seen from the left side.

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Roy Lichtenstein

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.

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Lichtenstein from the right side

This is Roy Lichtenstein's BMW art car from the right side.

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David Hockney, left side

The left side of David Hockney's BMW art car, an 850 CSi, which was completed in 1995.

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Hockney right side

The right side of David Hockney's BMW art car.

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Sandro Chia left side

In 1992, artist Sandro Chia completed his BMW art car, a prototype 3 Series racing touring car. Here's a shot of the left side.

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Chia right side

This is artist Sandro Chia's BMW art car, seen from the right side.

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Frank Stella

One of the earliest BMW art cars was this one by the famous Frank Stella, which was completed in 1976. Here, we see it from the front.

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Stella, right side

This is Frank Stella's BMW art car, seen from the right side.

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Ice car

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.

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Michael Jagamara Nelson

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.

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Jagamara Nelson right side

This is the right side of Australian artist Michael Jagamara Nelson's BMW art car.

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Ken Done 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.

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Ken Done right side

This is the right side of Ken Done's BMW art car.

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Jenny Holzer right side

This is the right side of Jenny Holzer's BMW art car, a 1999 work done on a BMW V12 LMR.

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Robert Rauschenberg right side

This is the right side of famous artist Robert Rauschenberg's BMW art car. He worked on a 635 CSi, and completed the car in 1986.

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Robert Rauschenberg, left side

This is the left side of Robert Rauschenberg's BMW art car.

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A.R. Penck left side

This is the left side of artist A.R. Penck's BMW art car, a Z1 completed in 1991.

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A.R. Penck right side

This is the right side of A.R. Penck's BMW art car.

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Cesar Manrique left side

Artist Cesar Manrique completed his BMW art car in 1990. It is a 730i. Here it is seen on the left side.

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Cesar Manrique right side

This is the right side of Cesar Manrique's BMW art car.

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Ernst Fuchs left side

Artist Ernst Fuchs completed his work, a 635 CSi, in 1982. Here a shot of its left side.

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Ernst Fuchs right side

This is the right side of Ernst Fuchs' BMW art car.

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Matazo Kayama right side

Japanese artist Matazo Kayama completed his work in 1990, on a 535i. Here's a view of its right side.

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Matazo Kayama straight on

This is a straight-on view of artist Matazo Kayama's BMW art car.

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