While each automaker has its own identity and lineup of vehicles, certain automakers have their own unique culture surrounding them. One of the defining aspects of BMW‘s culture is its embrace of art and style–particularly through the legendary BMW Art Cars.
Since the BMW Art Car Project was introduced 40 years ago by driver Hervé Poulain, nearly 20 custom-painted, one-of-a-kind models have been crafted by the world’s most visionary artists. While they all boast unforgettable style, here are the five best BMW Art Cars ever made.
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Countdown: The Best BMW Art Cars Ever Made
5. Roy Lichtenstein’s 320i Turbo
One of the earliest BMW Art Cars produced, American pop artist Lichtenstein’s BMW 320i Turbo (1977) remains one of the most recognizable painted cars for its rising yellow sun and “Benday dots” that were influenced by Lichtenstein’s work in comic books.
The artist once explained how he “painted lines as a road, pointing the way for the car. The design also shows the scenery as it passes by. Even the sky and sunlight are to been seen….you could list all the things a car experiences–the only difference is that this car mirrors all these things even before it takes to the road.”
4. Olafur Eliasson’s H2R
Undeniably the most original–and, quite bizarre–BMW Art Car, Eliasson’s transformed H2R was on display in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2007. Bringing attention to the crisis of global warming, Eliasson took the hydrogen-powered H2R and removed its metallic shell and swapped it for a mesh layered metal-and-ice cocoon.
While the idea may sound overly conceptual to some audiences, there’s no doubting the craftsmanship that went into transforming this BMW.
3. A.R. Penck’s BMW Z1
German neo-expressionist Penck was known for his “primitive” imagery in paintings and sculptures, and his entry in the BMW Art Car gallery incorporated that. While many of the painted BMWs utilize explosive palates of kinetic, vibrant colors, Penck stuck with a simple black paint on the red Z1.
The only convertible BMW Art Car thus far, Penck’s Z1 constrasted modern automotive design/technology with prehistoric imagery, using coded symbols to cover the car in a mysterious visual message.
2. Andy Warhol’s M1 Group 4
The only household name in the hall of BMW Art Car artists, Warhol’s pop art may not appeal to many people, but his painted M1 is undeniably masterful. While most artists use wraps or scale renderings to apply their designs to the Art Cars, Warhol took brush to metal and painted directly onto the M1’s body.
The car, which ran once in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, took Warhol less than a half hour to paint. The barrage of colors and conflicting lines depict speed visually.
1. Alexander Calder’s 3.0 CSL
The first BMW Art Car and the one that started it all in 1975, the painted 3.0 CSL race car was one of Calder’s last works before he died the following year. His selection of bold colors, converging lines, and swooping forms set the standard for the many Art Cars to come. In many ways, this initial piece defined what the BMW Art Car project would become.
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Sources: BMW Group, BMWDrives.com