Jeff Koons Art Car Boosts BMW's Cachet
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Wednesday night at Art Basel Miami Beach in the city's Botanical Garden, BMW unveiled the Jeff Koons-decorated M3 GT2 Art Car, the seventeenth in a series the automaker has commissioned from blue-chip artists like Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and David Hockney.
The American premiere of this vehicle served as a condensed version of the amped-up strategy BMW has conceived to promote the brand as a beacon of arts, culture and sophistication. The bursting supernova of colored striationssome reminiscent of the balloon quality that marks much of Koons's workprovides a framework to expand one's impression of the vehicle.
"I was just trying to think about energy and the design of the car, and where the car would have an interaction with energy," Koons told the crowd. "And to show its potential for speed and power."
BMW has smartly positioned itself at Miami Beach with the world's most famous artists to build off of the art world's momentum and associate that fervor with the auto brand's own artistic heritage.
And though some would criticize the frankensteined nature of the automotive and aesthetic worlds in the Art Car, Thomas Girst, head of cultural engagement at BMW AG, is quick to point out the authenticity behind this brand initiative.
"On the side of BMW, it's not about introducing the brand and the car to the art, it's more about a deep appreciation for the art and racing," he said. "It wasn't PR and marketing people putting their heads together thinking, 'How can we introduce our brand to the arts?' It's not about throwing money at institutions to make things possible."
The genesis of the BMW Art Car series actually arose organically. In 1975 Hervé Poulain, a French racecar driver, commissioned his friend Alexander Calder to paint a BMW 3.0 CSLagreed upon by the automaker's marketing team at the time. What began as a one-off turned into an extended series.
Girst believes the Art Car to be a continuation of the fascination artists have had with cars since these machines were invented, citing Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's 1896 lithograph "L'Automobiliste" and the heralding in 1909's The Futurist Manifesto of the car as the modern sculpture.
Warhol echoed this sentiment when calling his paint-slapped 1979 M1 a "rolling sculpture," and the Koons car comes emblazoned with a "79" in homage to that vehicle, part of the 24-hour race at Le Mans that year.
"The avant-garde artists were infatuated with speed and the energy and everything that came along with it the rush of adrenaline," Girst said. "BMW Art Car fits right in there and has a trajectory of almost four decades now engaging the greatest artists on this planet to tackle the idea of mobility, to create art cars that are a show stopper that are of tremendous visual importance."