The world of cars and art rarely cross over, but one of the special exceptions is BMW’s series of Art Cars, in which the Munich manufacturer hands one of its cars to a contemporary artist for them to use as a canvas. Often, it’s one of BMW’s racing cars that gets the treatment, which we then get to see in action out on track.
BMW has just teased the return of the project this year, with the next Art Car set to carry a livery by American Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu. The car itself is the BMW M Hybrid V8, the brand’s current entry in the top-flight Hypercar category in the IMSA championship and, from this year, the World Endurance Championship.
Mehretu, who’s known for large-scale, multi-layered abstract landscapes, is transferring that vocabulary onto a model of the M Hybrid V8 using 3D mapping. This, in turn, will create a film wrap that will be applied to the real thing.
The livery will include “obscured photographs, dotted grids, neon-coloured spray paint and Mehretu’s iconic gestural markings,” inspired by one of Mehretu’s recent large-format works. Mehretu herself, meanwhile, says she wants the car to be “a shout-out to former BMW Art Car artists,” name-dropping in particular Frank Stella, who created the second ever art car, a 3.0 CSL, in 1976.
We’ll get to see the new Art Car in full on 21 May, before it takes the start at the 92nd 24 Hours of Le Mans on 15 June, where it’ll be competing with BMW works drivers Sheldon Van Der Linde, Robin Frijns and René Rast. Following the race, it’ll start its second life as an art exhibit, touring various museums and galleries.
Mehretu joins names such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and David Hockney, who’ve all contributed to the Art Car project in the past. The last Art Car was an M6 with a livery by American artist John Baldessari, and raced at Daytona in 2017. The last time one ran at Le Mans, it was the Jeff Koons-painted M3 GT2. Mehretu’s take on the M Hybrid V8 should bring something very different to BMW’s usual M colours to the grid this year. Excited to see it?