BMW Art Cars



Following our story last week about Olafur Eliasson's latest addition to the BMW Art Cars series, here are some photographs of the other 15 cars in the series, which invites leading artists to work with the marque’s vehicles. Above: Alexander Calder (1975).


The collection began in 1975 when French racing driver Hervé Poulain commissioned his friend Calder to paint his BMW 3.0 CSL (above). Below: BMW 3.0 CSL painted by Frank Stella, 1976.


The Art Cars have been displayed around the world and are on permanent display at the BMW museum in Munich, Germany. See our previous story for details of Eliasson’s new Art Car.


Photographs © BMW AG

Here's some more information from BMW:


The BMW Art Car Collection

Established in 1975, the BMW Art Car Collection now includes 16 works by prominent artists - including David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Roy Litchenstein, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol - each making a unique artistic statement about the appearance and meaning of cars in our time. The Art Cars reflect the cultural and historical development of art, design and technology. Below: BMW 320i group 5 racing version painted by Roy Lichtenstein, 1977.


It was the French racing driver Hervé Poulain who first commissioned an artist - his friend Alexander Calder - to paint his BMW racecar in the early 1970's and this was the spark that led BMW to develop the Art Car program.


In the first years of the project, primarily racing cars were transformed into art objects - some of these even started in the famous 24-hour Le Mans race. Later the Art Car collection was extended to include series vehicles. In 1999 the American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer created the 15th BMW Art Car - she 'described' a BMW V12 Le Mans racing car with her word-art, calling her artwork 'Truisms'. Below: BMW M1 group 4 racing version painted by Andy Warhol, 1979.


Apart from bein permanently displayed at the BMW museum in Munich, cars from the collection have been exhibited by numerous museums and galleries worldwide, including the Louvre in Paris, the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and the Guggenheim museums in New York and Bilbao.


In April 2005, BMW selected Eliasson for its 16th Art Car commission, with input from an international board of curators comprising Bruce W. Ferguson, dean of Columbia University in New York; Pi Li from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Peking; Suzanne Pagé, director of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Francisco; Donna de Salvo, chief curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; and Carla Schulz-Hoffmann, assistant head curator of the Bavarian State Picture Collections. Below: BMW 635 CSi painted by Ernst Fuchs, 1982.



Below: BMW 635 CSi painted by Robert Rauschenberg, 1986.


Below: BMW M3 group A racing version painted by Ken Done, 1989.



Below: BMW M3 group A racing version painted by Michael Jagamara Nelson, 1989.



Below: BMW 535i painted by Matazo Kayama, 1990.



Below: BMW 730i painted by César Manrique, 1990.



Below: BMW Z1 painted by A.R Penck, 1991.



Below: BMW 525i painted by Esther Mahlangu, 1992.



Below: BMW 3 series saloon-car racing prototype painted by Sandro Chia, 1992.




Below: BMW 850 CSi painted by David Hockney, 1995.





Below: BMW V12 LMR painted by Jenny Holzer, 1999.




Below: Your Mobile Expectations, BMW H2R race car adopted by Olafur Eliasson, 2008. For more on this project see our earlier story.


Posted on Tuesday June 3rd 2008 at 10:34 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Zenza


  • edward

    As far as the cars themselves, none are striking examples of design in the tradition of the iconic Jaguar C type say, or the ’85 Ferrari TestaRosa, or even the original Mini. So disguising them with a big “name” artist is a clever ploy.

  • jarmo k

    thanks, this is a very nice + informative, and of course very-very interesting post! the one by stella is my favorite!

    i remember the lichtenstein design from way back when i was a child and collected car cards, it was featured on one of the cards in the bmw pack, you know, they were some german-manufactured small pieces of hard paper that kids like me used to spend our whole pocket-money on :D

    [that was very “in” somewhere in the middle-nineties among estonian boys, was it like that anywhere else?]

    i think i still have them somewhere, ha.

  • cpcp

    great post dezeen
    I want an M1!!!

  • pacharan

    Didn´t this thing of painting over cars begin with Sonia Dalunay?
    Many more artists have worked on a car support ever since. I find it interesting. It is good that BMW makes this.
    It would be good to remind Who and over What car did it also in the past. What car meant before and what it means now. If you stop and think about that, then Eliasson work might appear as quite ambitious as it´s trying to rethink of the machine-vehicle meaning nowadays. Not just applying a pattern or painting.

  • Horrid.
    Paintings should be reserved for canvas or other suitable/like stratum.
    Automobiles are in their purest and highest art form when the shape, form and lines of the vehicles design are unobstructed by pointless graphic ornamentation.
    The car in a solid color is more a testament to the art of the machine than these examples are intended to pass as art on wheels.
    Tish, Tish.



  • leandro locsin

    paint destroys the depth of form.

    what is sexy about a surface make-up ?

    cant we get enough of boring-struggling-fancy stuff?

    it just destroys the whole idea of being a designer !


    well Leonardo.. PIMP MY RIDE is all about that, but most of us (people) prefer ‘pimped stuuf, so I can’t figure out what’s best.. so keep pimpin’ and hope there’s more to it ;-)

  • Meh.. I think I just like the second “GRID” paint job. And that’s only because it’s on a race car – which should be spectacular. The other ones are pretty horrible.. I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in one of those. Embarassing..

  • Horton Schnitzel

    Maybe one will run you over. Why is it so hard for people to enjoy art and easy for them to criticize? Go home and lie down.

  • tim

    When an artist creates something after being given the opportunity to, that artist deserves criticism just as much as he deserves the opportunity to do the thing which permits criticism. The reason is simple: an artist who is commissioned to do something cool and doesn’t do something cool is an insult to every artist who would have made better use of the same opportunity.

  • nima

    tanx 4 this blog

  • i love the art car series.
    i actually painted my own bmw 850ci inspired by sandro chia’s 3series .

  • This is a nice art project by BMW. Such activities like this opens new perspective to different car lines. I like the retro look of the cars, the colors are vibrant and refreshing