BMW has announced that celebrated artist Jeff Koons will be creating the latest Art Car, which follows previous projects from the likes of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Calder, Stella and Holzer.
What’s more, the new car will race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 12-13, 2010. The canvas for Koons is a BMW M3 GT2, which was homologated to compete at this year’s endurance race.
In another nod to tradition, Koons will present the world premiere and sign his car at the Pompidou Centre in Paris on June 1, 2010, just as Roy Lichtenstein did in 1977. Adding to the occasion, Koons released his preliminary design concept for the car. As part of his creative process, the artist collected images of racecars and graphics, vibrant colors and speed. He layered them into a digital collage depicting his inspiration. The resulting graphic conceived are said to be evocative of power, motion and light were rendered in the artist’s signature saturated hues on a black ground set against the car’s silver interior.
“These racecars are like life, they are powerful and there is a lot of energy,” said Koons. “You can participate with it, add to it and let yourself transcend with its energy. There is a lot of power under that hood and I want to let my ideas transcend with the car – it’s really to connect with that power.”
The Koons car will be number 79, which pays tribute to the 1979 Andy Warhol car. In the same way, yhe Warhol car was assigned number 76 in homage to the 1976 Frank Stella car, both of which raced at Le Mans.
Koons has been in collaboration with BMW’s team in Munich for months to ensure the 17th BMW Art Car will be race-ready for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Traveling to Germany several times since the February 2 announcement, the artist has worked with the BMW engineering and design teams to explore materials and application options that will optimize both the aesthetic and aerodynamic attributes of the racecar.
Working with 3D CAD models of the BMW M3 GT2, Koons could simulate the application of the graphic to the car’s surfaces and evaluate it from all angles.
Koons even donned a helmet and joined BMW’s American Le Mans Series race team for testing in Sebring, FL. He was able to experience the M3 GT2 at race speed to further inspire his design. As Koons described it, he witnessed “the raw, unfiltered performance” of the M3 GT2 from the seat of a historic BMW M1 race car. Koons also drove a BMW M3 Coupe on the circuit.
BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen also announced the driver line-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Andy Priaulx (GB), Dirk Müller (DE) and Dirk Werner (DE) will race the BMW Art Car #79.
French auctioneer and racing driver Hervé Poulain first had the idea of asking an artist to paint the car he would compete with. Taking up this initiative in 1975, American artist Alexander Calder painted a BMW racecar, thus laying the foundation for the subsequent series of vehicles.
The Art Car experiment continued a year later, Calder Art Car co-driver Sam Posey introduced Frank Stella to the idea of BMW Art Cars when the New York-based artist covered a BMW with his typical grid-like pattern. Stella’s work was followed by a series of celebrated pop artists: Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. Apart from Rauschenberg’s Art Car, all took part in the Le Mans 24-hour race, some of them enjoying remarkable success.
After taking a break in the 1980’s, the Art Car returned to its origins at Le Mans in 1999, when American concept artist Jenny Holzer “wrote” her truisms on a BMW V12 Le Mans race car.
The germination of Koons’ collaboration with BMW began in 2003, when he expressed his desire to create an Art Car. His relationship with BMW started more than two decades ago when he drove a BMW while residing in Munich, home to the BMW Group headquarters. Koons is known for his heartfelt appreciation of cars. Earlier this year he was even recognized by music icon Bono of U2 as one of the ideal artists to design a car that would make the world fall in love with automobiles again.
Koons’ creative process for the BMW Art Car mirrors techniques, some borrowed from transportation design and development, which he regularly employs for his artistic production. For example, in the creation of Koons’ monumental sculptures, his studio uses 3-D CAD models to evaluate the surfaces, assembles them via methods found in bike chop shops, and paints them in a manner based on sophisticated automotive painting techniques.
Mario Theissen said, “The race in Le Mans is one of the most important events in international motorsport. This makes it the perfect stage to revive the tradition of the BMW Art Car. Jeff Koons’ work of art will leave a lasting impression with all those who see it, even after the BMW M3 GT2 has crossed the finish line. BMW Art Cars have often also been able to impress with their sporting achievements. I am optimistic that this will be the case again this year.”
Beginning in September, the Koons Art Car will be on view at the BMW Museum in Munich, as part of a special exhibition commemorating the program’s 35th anniversary.