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The 5 Best BMW Art Cars

The team here at was recently discussing how we look at cars as art. That got us thinking about the more literal “cars as art” projects over the years. Clearly the most iconic car projects are the The BMW Art Car Projects.

The BMW Art Car Project was introduced by the French racecar driver and auctioneer Hervé Poulain, who wanted to invite an artist to create a canvas on an automobile.

In 1975, Poulain commissioned American artist and friend Alexander Calder to paint the first BMW Art Car. This first example would be a BMW 3.0 CSL which Poulain himself would race in the 1975 Le Mans endurance race.

Also see: Best BMW “Back to Future” ConceptsThe 5 Best BMW Engines EverThe 10 Best BMW M Cars8 Best BMW Race Cars Ever.

Since Calder’s work of art, many other renowned artists throughout the world have created BMW Art Cars, including David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Roy Lichtenstein,Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. To date, a total of 17 BMW Art Cars, based on both racing and regular production vehicles, have been created.

While all 17 BMW Art Cars are beautiful and unique, we have our favorites, so we pulled together a list of the top 5 BMW Art Cars below. Enjoy:

BMW art cars

Alexander Calder – 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL

In 1975, Calder was commissioned to paint a BMW 3.0 CSL, which would be the first vehicle in the BMW Art Car Project. Calder used primary colors and painted them in broad swathes across the paintwork of the BMW 3.0 CSL. The use of differing colors within the individual elements of the car’s structure adds to the illusion of movement within the picture as a whole.


Roy Lichtenstein – 1977 BMW 320i Group 5 Race

The Group 5 320i was a monster, with aero that made the CSL look weak. Lichtenstein said about his design, “I wanted the lines I painted to be a depiction the road showing the car where to go,” said Roy Lichtenstein commenting on his design of the BMW 320i. “The design also shows the countryside through which the car has travelled. One could call it an enumeration of everything a car experiences – only that this car reflects all of these things before actually having been on a road.”


Andy Warhol – 1979 BMW M1 Group 4 Race Version

It takes forever to build the M1 and along comes Warhol and spends 20 minutes throwing paint all over the pace and creates one of the most iconic art cars ever. Andy Warhol immortalized himself in this M1. His work went on display as early as 1952 in New York. In 1956 he received the coveted “Art Directors Club Award.” At his legendary “Factory,” at which he employed a whole team of workers, classic art concepts were negated and overturned in an unprecedented manner.

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Jenny Holzer – 1999 BMW V12 LMR

The Art Car designed by the American concept artist Jenny Holzer is adorned with messages which “will probably never become void”. Her concept is based on traditional colors and materials used in motor racing. This and other provocative messages glare at the beholder from the otherwise white bodywork of the 15th Art Car. Instead of chrome, a light and shiny foil was used for the lettering to avoid increasing the weight of the BMW V12 LMR. Known for being critical of western society, Holzer nevertheless grew up “surrounded by cars since I went to kindergarten,” as the daughter of a car dealer.


Jeff Koons – 2010 BMW M3 GT2

As part of his creative process, the artist collected images of race cars, related graphics, vibrant colors, speed and explosions. The resulting artwork of bright colors conceived by Koons is evocative of power, motion and bursting energy. Its silver interior along with the powerful exterior design, the Art Car will impart a dynamic appearance even when it‟s standing still. It was unveiled to the world at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in June 2010 – to great acclaim! The media and art magazines from all over the world carried reports on the 17th model in the Art Car series. The car bears the racing number 79 – a tribute to the BMW M1 body work-over presented by Andy Warhol in 1979.