The first BMW Art Car to pass into private hands was bought by Jonathan Sobel, the owner of BMW of Southampton, who will put the car on public display at his dealership in 2012.
Sobel purchased the one-of-a-kind Art Car at a Bonhams auction in Pebble Beach on August 18, 2011. "The Stella M1 combines my two hobbies and passions, art and automobiles. It represents the marriage of art, engineering and functional design."
Commissioned in 1979, the Frank Stella BMW M1 Procar was painted to Stella’s "Polar Coordinates" design for close friend, racecar driver and champion, Peter Gregg.
When Gregg and Stella were together at Daytona in 1979, Stella created the design specifically for Gregg's M1. This was the only time a BMW-commissioned artist created a car for anyone other than the manufacturer itself.
The "Polar Coordinates" design adds a dynamic aesthetic to the M1's exterior, as the colors and patterns change with each turn of the racetrack, shifting in each viewer's perspective. The design is based on a series of prints that Stella made in homage to his friend, Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson, who passed away during the Italian Grand Prix.
American Stella, who was born in 1936, is an essential figure in the history of art with works in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is also a devoted racing fan. Not only has he contributed designs for an Art Car, but Stella has also been influenced by racing in the creation of his art. His series "Circuits" (1980-1984) presents abstract depictions of racetracks he visited.
A total of 18 BMW Art Cars are in existence to date, created by some of the world's greatest artists, each hand-selected by BMW. Some of these include Alexander Calder, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. Of the 18 cars, 17 are owned by BMW and remain in their collection. The only other, the Frank Stella M1 Art Car, now owned by Sobel, was previously owned by the Guggenheim. The cars have been displayed in museums and public venues throughout the world.