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New BMW Art Car unveiled in Paris and will race at Le Mans

There’s a new BMW art car by New York-based artist Julie Mehretu and it is to race in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. But not before it has headlined a sensational gathering of Art Cars at Villa Erba during the Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza.  

Unveiled at the Pompidou Centre, it is based on a BMW M Hybrid V8 race car and follows a long tradition that started in 1975 when Alexander Calder, a pal of French racing driver Hervé Poulain, was asked by Jochen Neerpasch to paint a BMW 3.0 CSL. It was an immediate crowd favourite and was followed by cars from Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Esther Mahlangu, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Ólafur Elíasson and Jeff Koons. The two most recent came from Cao Fei and John Baldessari  who decorated a M6 GT3 and GTLM respectively in  2016 and 2017. 

Mehretu’s canvas is the BMW M Hybrid V8, powered by a 4-litre V8 engine supported by an electric motor and giving 640 hp and 215mph, depending on set-up. It will be tghe first factory M Motorsport prototype to compete at Le Mans since the BMW V12 LMR, which won in 1999. Multiple award winning Julie Mehretu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1970 but moved to the USA aged seven. She lives and works in New York City and Berlin.

She said: ‘The whole BMW Art Car project is about invention, about imagination, about pushing limits of what can be possible. I don’t think of this car as something you would exhibit. I am thinking of it as something that will race in Le Mans. It’s a performative painting. My BMW Art Car was created in close collaboration with motorsport and engineering teams. The BMW Art Car is only completed once the race is over.’

‘In the studio where I had the model of the BMW M Hybrid V8 I was just sitting in front of the painting and I thought: What would happen if this car seemed to go through that painting and becomes affected by it,’ she added. ‘The idea was to make a remix, a mash-up of the painting. I kept seeing that painting kind of dripping into the car. Even the kidneys of the car inhaled the painting.’

Before Le Mans the car will be seen at BMW’s Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este in Lake Como where an astonishing display at Villa Erba will bring it together with the Le Mans art cars from Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jenny Holzer and Jeff Koons. Mehretu will discuss the creation of the 20th BMW Art Car in with Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design, at the event on Sunday, 26 May 2024.

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