The names read like a Who’s-Who of the art world: Calder, Stella, Warhol, Lichtenstein. Now add Jeff Koons, the avant garde artist who has become the latest in a long line of artists to apply his hand to one of BMW’s rolling canvas, the Art Car.
The artist will formally debut his latest work – and sign it – at the Centre Pompidou – on June 1, 2010. But the newest Art Car won’t be just another museum piece. Koon’s creation is, under the paint, a 500 horsepower BMW M3 GT2, and it will be raced at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, on June 12 and 13.
The seventeenth BMW Art Car, Koons’ version is still a work in progress, but he has gathered images of race cars and, in his preliminary design, layered them amidst vibrant colors and graphics designed to evoike power, motion and light. His signature saturated hues will cover a black background and contrast the GT2’s silver interior.
“These race cars are like life, they are powerful and there is a lot of energy,” said Koons. “You can participate with it, add to it and let yourself transcend with its energy. There is a lot of power under that hood and I want to let my ideas transcend with the car – it’s really to connect with that power.”
The formal debut of the Koons car, at the Pompidou Center echoes the unveiling of one of the first Art Cars, which was created by Roy Lichtenstein – perhaps best known for his comic strip-like imagery – in 1977.
But the new GT2 will race the Le Mans circuit as car number 79, itself an homage to the 1979 Art Car created by Andy Warhol.
“It is fitting that Jeff Koons’ car will follow in the storied tradition of the renowned artists who created the early race-inspired BMW Art Cars,” said Jim O’Donnell, President of BMW North America. “We look forward to BMW’s return to Le Mans – and perhaps even sharing a toast with Jeff at the finish line.”
The Art Car concept dates back to when French auctioneer and racing driver Hervé Poulain first proposed getting artists to paint the car he himself would compete with. Alexander Calder was the first to give it a try, in 1975, with Frank Stella picking up the brush a year later, covering a BMW with his trademark grid patterns.
Many of the early versions turned up Le Mans, but BMW put things on hiatus in the ‘80s. American concept artist Jenny Holzer reviving the concept in 1999, when she painted some of her “truisms” on a BMW V12 Le Mans race car.