Performance Cars

BMW's new art car is a three-part multimedia extravaganza

It's way, way better than the last one, that's for sure.

BMW

You needed to be a pretty big fan of modern art to appreciate John Baldessari's BMW Art Car, but the latest one by Chinese artist Cao Fei requires a willingness to extend art beyond the car itself.

BMW's 18th Art Car is the first to play canvas for a Chinese artist, and the 39-year-old Fei is also the youngest artist to create one. The car itself is a BMW M6 GT3 racecar, shown in naked carbon fiber. Its non-reflective carbon black surface might not look very artsy, since there's no art on the car itself, but the vehicle is only the first part of a multimedia art experience.

Technically, you can't see most of the "art" without the augmented-reality app, but it looks pretty good as a naked racecar, too.

BMW

There's also an augmented-reality aspect to Art Car No. 18. Using a dedicated app in the presence of the car, viewers will be treated to a light display floating above and around the car -- the images in the gallery below show what that will look like. The whole point is to turn the spectator into an active participant.

The final component of this tripartite art extravaganza is a video that Fei made to go along with the car and the augmented-reality app. The video focuses on a "time traveling spiritual practitioner," creating streams of light using movement. It's related to a common Chinese spiritual ceremony that grants a new object good luck.

BMW's latest art car is a project some three years in the making. During the course of its development, Cao Fei worked closely with the German company's designers and engineers. Fei also underwent a driving experience with one of its racing drivers and spent a bunch of time at BMW's Tiexi plant in China.

The M6 GT3 is a properly gnarly racecar. Its 4.4-liter V8 can spit out about 585 horsepower, which can be decreased to meet various race regulations. Without the driver, it weighs under 2,900 pounds -- and again, that can be changed to adhere to different rules. It participates in European endurance racing, and a GTLM version competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series. This specific car will make its debut at the FIA GT World Cup in Macau.