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Art Cars :: Driven By Design

Friday February 10, 2012

Art Cars :: Driven By Design

Way before MTV started pimping rides German car manufacturer BMW were experimenting with unique, customized paint jobs by prominent artists, including Cesar Manrique.

BMW Art Cars

The whole concept of the BMW Art Car was first conceived in 1975. When an art loving French auctioneer and aspiring racing car driver Herve Poulain came up with the idea of customizing a vehicle for the world famous Le Mans 24 hour rally.

Poulain´s only problem was that he didn't have a racecar and wasn't officially entered in the competition!

Fortunately Poulain had a close friend in Alexander Calder – widely recognized as one of the 20th centuries most important and influential sculptors.

With this weighty backing Poulain was able to convince BMW to let Calder customize a car. And let him get behind the wheel for the grueling endurance rally as part of their team.

This proved to be a pretty shrewd PR move – as Caldera's artwork generated such a high degree of interest and publicity that BMW quickly commissioned other leading artists to come up with their own designs for their Le Mans 24hour race cars in the years that followed.

So spawning a series of fifteen customized cars in total created by some of the art world's biggest names.

In 1990, Lanzarote born artist and architect Cesar Manrique was invited to follow in the footsteps of luminaries such as Roy Lichtenstein and Ken Done and set to work creating his own unique imprint for BMW - specifically for their 730i model.

As an advocate of harmony between man and nature Manrique was aware of the symbolic importance of the whole theme of mobility. And despite the fact that he thought that there were already too many vehicles in the world he accepted that automobiles had become an indispensable facet of modern life. Influencing the way in which man perceived the world around him.

So he sought to create a design that would “combine the notions of speed and aerodynamics with the concept of aesthetic appeal in one object.” Resulting in a car based canvas that evoked movement with sweeps of vibrant colour.

Art Cars On Tour

Since 1990 the BMW Art Car Collection has been further augmented with works by such famous artists as David Hockney. And an exhibition of these vehicles tours the world on a virtually continuous basis. Enjoying high profile showcases in major art institutions such as the Louvre in Paris, the Royal Academy in London and the Guggenheim Museum in both New York and Bilbao.

Indeed, BMW now has sufficient cars in their collection to run exhibition tours concurrently in different parts of the world. At the moment, one group of cars is in Australia and the Far East - part of a worldwide circuit that runs until 2010 and which will also take in dates in the United States and Europe (including Spain). Although at this stage it is not yet clear precisely which cars will be exhibited and where.

There is of course a sad element of irony to Manrique´s involvement with this project as in 1992, just two years after creating his BMW Art Car, he was killed in a road accident close to his home - now the Cesar Manrique Foundation – in Tahiche.

Chronology :: BMW Art Cars

Alexander Calder (USA) 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL
Frank Stella (USA) 1976 BMW 3.0 CSL
Roy Lichtenstein (USA) 1977 BMW 320i Group 5 Race Version
Andy Warhol (USA) 1979 BMW M1 Group 4 Race Version
Ernst Fuchs (Austria) 1982 BMW 635 CSi
Robert Rauschenberg (USA) 1986 BMW 635 CSi
Michael Jagamara Nelson (Australia) 1989 BMW 635 CSi
Ken Done (Australia) 1989 BMW M3 Group A Race Version
Matazo Kayama (Japan) 1990 BMW 535i
César Manrique (Spain) 1990 BMW 730i
A.R. Penck (Germany) 1991 BMW Z1
Esther Mahlangu (South Africa) 1991 BMW 525i
Sandro Chia (Italy) 1992 BMW 3 Series Racing Prototype
David Hockney (Great Britain) 1995 BMW 850CSi
Jenny Holzer (USA) 1999 BMW V12 LMR

Specification :: BMW730i

Six cylinder inline engine with overhead camshaft
Displacement 2986 cubic cm
Power output 188 bhp
Top speed: 222 Km/h

1990 BMW 730i Art Car by Cesar Manrique – Front And Side :: Image Credits – BMW Group

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