The countdown for the unveiling of the 20th BMW Art Car is underway. On 21st May, the BMW M Hybrid V8, designed by artist Julie Mehretu and set to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 15th/16th June, will be presented at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France.

The artist is already providing glimpses into her work. Additionally, it is now confirmed that the Art Car will carry the starting number 20 and will be driven by Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), Robin Frijns (NED), and René Rast (GER). 

The #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 will be the first Art Car since the 2017 season, where the BMW M6 GTLM designed by John Baldessari raced at the 24 Hours of Daytona (USA), followed by the virtual BMW M6 GT3 Art Car by Cao Fei at the FIA GT World Cup in Macau (CHN). In the past, the most famous BMW Art Cars have participated in Le Mans: in 1975, Alexander Calder’s BMW 3.0 CSL, in 1976, Frank Stella’s BMW 3.0 CSL, in 1977, Roy Lichtenstein’s BMW 320i Turbo, in 1979, Andy Warhol’s BMW M1, in 1999, Jenny Holzer’s BMW V12 LMR, and in 2010, Jeff Koons’ BMW M3 GT2. This illustrious collection is now enriched by Julie Mehretu’s BMW M Hybrid V8.

Fusion of image motif and racing car creates art on wheels.

For the design of the 20th BMW Art Car, Mehretu uses the colour and form vocabulary of an existing large-format painting from a more recent series of works: obscured photographs, dotted grids, neon-coloured spray paint and Mehretu’s iconic gestural markings give her design an abstract visual form. She transfers the resulting image motif as a high-resolution photograph onto the vehicle’s contours using a 3D mapping technique. This creates the unique artistic foiling with which the BMW M Hybrid V8 will compete in the Le Mans race.

For the first time, Mehretu is working with BMW on a three-dimensional format. The interplay of the surfaces and geometry of the vehicle creates a remix of elements of her painting and opens up new perspectives for the artist in her creative process. In accordance with the regulations of the FIA, the 3D version of the artwork can only be applied to the BMW M Hybrid V8 with a film wrap. For this, Mehretu is working closely with the German Race Spirit team led by Manuel Eberl and Gertraud Brenninger to design the 20th BMW Art Car. Race Spirit was already involved in realising the design created by Jeff Koons for the 17th BMW Art Car.

Quotes on the 20th BMW Art Car

Julie Mehretu: “It wasn’t until after going to the 24 Hours race in Daytona last year that the idea of how to approach the BMW Art Car really crystallised. I was thinking about Frank Stella’s grid and how this could also be a shout-out to former BMW Art Car artists. And I kept thinking of this painting in my studio that I had just finished and the model of the Art Car was in my studio and I thought maybe we can try to have the car move through this painting. The creative play of what you can do in this new three-dimensional space and how many imaginations and inventions are played out to build it is highly instructive. It is not just the car itself but the designers and their deliberations as well as and foremost the drivers and their desires and aspirations which make it become this place of dreams where painting, conceptual art, aerodynamics, speed and aesthetics can participate.”

Franciscus van Meel, CEO of BMW M GmbH: “The prospect of competing in a BMW Art Car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is an additional incentive for the entire M Motorsport team to prepare the BMW M Hybrid V8 as perfectly as possible for this big stage. In the 100th year of the race’s existence and 25 years after BMW’s last victory at Le Mans, winning there with a BMW Art Car would be the greatest possible success for all of us.”

Sheldon van der Linde: “I’m a big fan of the art that the BMW Art Cars represent. I still remember seeing the last Art Car, driven by Augusto Farfus in Macau in 2017. I’m proud to now be part of an Art Car crew myself. I haven’t seen the design yet, but I’m extremely curious and confident it will look really cool. For us, it’s something special to be even more in the spotlight at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as if that wasn’t already the case at such a big event.”

Robin Frijns: “It’s the first time in my career that I’m driving a car with a special design. That it will be one of the famous BMW Art Cars is fantastic. With such a car, we will stand out from the rest of the field in Le Mans and attract attention from both the media and fans. I’m sure we’ll have an action-packed week in Le Mans. Our goal is to be competitive with the BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car and achieve a good result.”

René Rast: “It’s a great honour to drive a BMW Art Car and thus become part of a very special story. As drivers, we will undoubtedly be more in the media spotlight than usual. I am very much looking forward to being a part of it.”

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