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BMW Art Car Visits New York City Museum - Web Exclusive

South African artist Esther Mahlangu's 1991 design on a BMW 525i will be displayed at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York City from November 17-May 15, 2011.

Nov 15, 2010

South African artist Esther Mahlangu's 1991 design on a BMW 525i will be displayed at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York City from November 17-May 15, 2011.

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The BMW Art Car is a part of The Global Africa Project, which explores the impact of African visual culture on contemporary art, craft and design around the world.

Mahlangu used the traditional painting technique of her African Ndebele tribe. The distinctive and well-known Ndebele patterns are created exclusively by the women of the tribe and Esther Mahlangu is internationally considered the leading representative of this art form.

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Born in South Africa in 1936, Esther was taught the traditional painting technique of the Ndebele tribe by her mother. She upholds the traditions and already began passing on her knowledge to her daughter many years ago.

"Ndebele art has, in an entirely natural way, something slightly formal but very majestic about it; through my work I have added the idea of movement," said Esther Mahlangu. "My art has evolved from our tribal tradition of decorating the home," said Mahlangu.

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By painting the BMW 525i she passed on her tribe's traditional means of expression to an object of contemporary technology. In order to develop a feel for the new medium, she initially painted the door of another BMW before beginning with the design of the Art Car. Within one week she had transformed the car into a masterpiece of African Ndebele art.

Since 1975, artists from around the world have turned BMW automobiles into art, signifying a particular period through the Art Car program. Many of the cars by the likes of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Stella, Rauschenberg, Hockney and Holzer have been exhibited in renowned museums throughout the world, including the Louvre, Guggenheim Museums and the Shanghai Art Museum.

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Over the 35 years of the BMW Art Car program, 17 art cars have been added to the collection, the most recent is the BMW M3 GT2 by Jeff Koons that was unveiled earlier this year. Mahlangu was the first female and first African artist to join the program.

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