First design studies for Julie Mehretu’s BMW Art Car revealed. World premiere at the Centre Pompidou Paris in May 2024. Her BMW M Hybrid V8 to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Announcement of the international driver team and starting number. Workshops with artists in various African cities.


New York/Munich. Julie Mehretu presents her first
design studies for the 20th BMW Art Car. For this project, the
internationally renowned artist combines her artistic work with a
personal enthusiasm for automotive design and speed. She translates
dynamism into form and applies one of her monumental motifs from a
two-dimensional picture plane onto a three-dimensional industrially
designed object. In the course of this creative process, the BMW M
Hybrid V8 racing car prototype becomes the canvas of Mehretu’s
multi-layered art and the next addition to the legendary BMW Art Car
Collection. The 20th BMW Art Car will celebrate its official world
premiere at the Centre Pompidou in Paris on May 21, 2024, before
competing a few weeks later in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 15/16.

Fusion of image motif and racing car creates art on
For the design of the 20th BMW Art Car, Julie
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. Mehretu on her process: “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.”

For the first time, Julie Mehretu, whose work will be presented this
year within a major retrospective at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice from
March 17, 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. “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,” says Mehretu.

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, Julie 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.

Julie Mehretu working on her 20th BMW Art Car. Photo: André Josselin and Tina Paffen © BMW AG

From the museum to the race track – and back
In keeping with the long tradition of the BMW Art
Car Collection, the artistically designed vehicle will be presented to
the public for the first time in an internationally renowned museum on
May 21. As with the world premieres of the BMW Art Cars by Roy
Lichtenstein (1977) and Jeff Koons (2010), the unveiling will take
place at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. That same week, the artwork
will be part of the program of the Concorso d’Eleganza at the Villa
d’Este in Cernobbio (May 24-26).

The close connection between art and motorsport is also an integral
part of the history of the BMW Art Car Collection. The very first BMW
Art Car, designed by Alexander Calder in 1975, made its dynamic debut
at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans. As the 20th BMW Art Car, Julie
Mehretu’s vehicle will compete at Le Mans with starting number 20 and
will be driven by BMW works drivers Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), Robin
Frijns (NED) and René Rast (GER) in the 24 Hours of Le Mans from June
15 to 16, 2024. The artist will also design the racing suits in which
they will compete at Le Mans.

“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,” says Franciscus van Meel, Chairman of the Board of
Management of BMW M GmbH. “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.”

Following its race at Le Mans, the 20th BMW Art Car will also become
an exhibit that will be presented to the public in museums and on art
platforms worldwide. However, Julie Mehretu’s approach goes far beyond
the vehicle as a stand-alone artistic work.

Workshops with young creatives in numerous African
A central component of the project is the
PanAfricanTranslocal Media Workshop Series on the African continent,
which will continue the collaboration between Julie Mehretu and BMW in
2025. Together with Mehret Mandefro, Emmy-nominated producer, writer
and co-founder of the Realness Institute, which works to strengthen
the media ecosystem across Africa, the artist will host workshops in
eight African cities over the course of nine months to provide artists
with a space for encounters, exchange and collaboration. The results
of the workshops will then be presented at the Zeitz Museum of
Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town – together with the 20th BMW Art
Car. An important partner for the conception of the programme is the
artist residency Denniston Hill in Upstate New York, founded in 2004
by Julie Mehretu, Lawrence Chua and Paul Pfeiffer.

Julie Mehretu was unanimously chosen to design the 20th BMW Art Car
in 2018 by a jury of high-ranking representatives of the international
art world. The panel includes renowned curators and museum directors
from various countries, including Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director and
Chief Curator, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Artistic
Director of the Serpentine Galleries, London; and Cecilia Alemani,
Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director and Chief Curator, High Line Art, New
York. Like all the artists involved in the creation of the BMW Art Car
Collection since 1975 – including Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, César
Manrique, Esther Mahlangu, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Cao Fei and
John Baldessari, in addition to those already mentioned – Julie
Mehretu was given unrestricted creative freedom in the realization of
her ideas for the latest vehicle of this globally unique collection.

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