Cars and art have a fascinating relationship. For several decades now, automakers have collaborated with renowned artists to create unique art cars, transforming vehicles into works of art. The phenomenon of art cars, which gained prominence through initiatives like the BMW Art Cars from the 1970s, continues to transform cars into rolling canvases of artistic expression.
BMW’s extraordinary tradition of art cars has seen artists from diverse disciplines express their creativity on the brand’s vehicles. Notable contributors such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons and David Hockney have left their artistic imprints on the German brand’s cars. As BMW’s Art Car legacy continues, the excitement grows with the recent announcement of a collaboration with artist Julie Mehretu for the 20th BMW Art Car. Selected unanimously by an international jury, Julie will have the artistic freedom to design the “rolling sculpture.” The BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car will then race in the 24 Hour of Le Mans in June 2024, continuing the tradition of artists contributing to BMW’s racing heritage.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1970, Julie’s unique artistic style has been influenced by her diverse educational background, including time spent in Dakar, Senegal. Her paintings, prints and drawings explore the intersections of history and contemporary experiences, depicting social behaviours and the psychogeography of space. Beyond the creation of the art car, the partnership between BMW and Julie extends to fostering artistic collaboration and civic engagement across cities in Africa. The project’s outcome will be presented alongside the 20th BMW Art Car at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town in 2025, adding a cultural dimension to BMW’s commitment to art and creativity.
Although not art cars per se, Bentley’s ‘Art in Motion’ proposition is another example that reflects a car brand’s commitment to combining automotive craftsmanship with art. As part of the programme that celebrates the fusion of arts and automotive design, Bentley has collaborated with acclaimed artists and designers to produce and promote unique artworks inspired by the key attributes and distinct design language of the marque’s vehicles. The Crewe brand’s collaboration with artists Ricardo Gonzalez, Mikael B and Laci Jordan got noticed after their resulting artworks were auctioned for charity in New York recently.
The latest project in Bentley’s Art in Motion programme is a strategic partnership with Dominic Ciambrone, popularly known as The Surgeon in the customised shoe industry. Together, they have introduced an exclusive line of Bentley-inspired sneakers, a limited edition reserved solely for the clients and collectors of Mulliner. These sneakers showcase Bentley’s craft signatures, featuring intricate diamond quilting and delicate cross stitching, complemented by The Surgeon’s signature skull and scalpel monogram.
In addition to the sneaker line, Bentley also unveiled a one-of-a-kind Flying Spur Hybrid curated by The Surgeon at the design week at Art Basel Miami a few months ago. The Flying Spur Hybrid X The Surgeon boasts an impactful duo-tone paint finish of anthracite over anthracite satin, highlighted with satin bronze accents. Inside, linen and beluga upholstery with bronze stitching complements the walnut veneer-adorned cabin featuring a skull and scalpel motif. Bentley’s knurled finish adds tactile interest.
The convergence of the automotive and art worlds has always offered a fresh perspective on design possibilities, elevating cars from mere transportation to cultural artefacts. Projects like BMW’s Art Cars elevate cars as canvasses for artistic expression, while Bentley’s Art in Motion programme seamlessly integrates art, fashion and automotive design. With talented artists such as Julie Mehretu stepping into the arena, the future of art cars looks promising, and we can look forward to seeing inspiring works that transcend mere transportation and leave a legacy for generations to come.