As part of London’s 2012 Festival, BMW’s iconic Art Cars have taken over a historic 1960s London landmark in an exhibition entitled Art Drive!
Set in London’s hipster central, the Great Eastern Street NCP Car Park in Shoreditch is the ideal venue for the ‘Art Drive’ exhibition, which showcases the 16 Art Cars created from 1975 through to 2010.
Spread over six floors, the exhibition features the Art Cars of renowned artists Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, A.R Penck, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Sandro Chia, Ken Done, Ernst Fuchs, Esher Mahlangu, Cesar Manrique, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Matazo Kayama and Jeff Koons.
Back to the Future
Enter the elevator to the top floor and the exhibition begins by welcoming visitors with the first commission in the series: the 3.0 CSL painted in primary colors by legendary American artist Alexander Calder.
Launched in 1975, the BMW Art Car collection started when French racing driver and auctioneer Hervé Poulain invited Calder to design a car that married artistic excellence to ‘an already perfect object’. The end result was a racing car that would ultimately compete in the Le Mans 24-hour race that year.
The vivid 3.0 CSL is joined by the white V12 LMR, emblazoned with text by Jenny Holzer in 1999. Holzer’s radical slogans were previously displayed on public advertising space, from billboards to baseball bats. ‘Protect me from what I want’ holds itself up against the rising tide of consumerism, while the statement ‘You are so complex you don’t respond to danger’ echoes Poulain’s earliest motivations and the exhilaration of Le Mans.
Take the stairs to the floor below and visitors are treated to the works of Frank Stella, Matazo Kayama, and César Manrique — a dazzling array of abstract designs. Stella’s commission being the earliest in 1976, Manrique’s and Kayama’s both follow in 1990 with Kayama being the first Asian artist in the series.
American painter and printmaker Frank Stella imposes graceful swirls over a gridded 3.0 CSL ‘like a blueprint transferred onto the bodywork’. Stella superimposes abstract lines suggestive of a cutting template over enlarged graph paper, recalling the layering of cut-outs that would increasingly appear in his three-dimensional paintings.
Using the ancient Japanese techniques of ‘Kirigane’ (metal cutting) and ‘Arare’ (foil printing) to lay down fine pieces of silver, gold and aluminum, Kayama’s BMW 535i evokes a sensual vision of snowfall over natural forms. Kayama would later say, ‘only after I had attached the BMW emblem did I feel like my work was truly complete. I was filled with excitement like a small child’.
Artist and an architect Manrique’s bold and striking BMW 730i echoes the vibrancy of Mediterranean living and native Spanish surrealism. ‘When I think of speed, I immediately think of butterflies and dragonflies’. Bright patterns sway before us as though the car was an exotic creature with headlamps for eyes.