Alexander Calder - 3.0 CSL, 1975
A work of art usually commands the pensive respect of time and reflection in environments of either beauty or clinical white space. The ICA in partnership with BMW, the Official Automotive Partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, have turned this concept upside down to present the brand’s celebrated Art Car series.
Spanning thirty-five years of international collaboration between art and chassis, ART DRIVE! explores an exciting vision that started in 1975 with the first commission of Alexander Calder to customise a BMW 3.0 CSL for the Le Man 24 Hour Race. This was art for the racetrack - before the era of corporate branding and art market obsession – far from the white cubes where one associates works by Hockney, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg and Koons to name only a few of the members of this exclusive club of the who's who in the contemporary art world.
Going Up: the ICA at the NCP Great Eastern Street car park
In what was one of the most enthralling entrances into an art space I have ever experienced, the carport lift of the landmark NCP Great Eastern Street car park in Shoreditch carried me to the top floor of the ICA’s temporary outpost earlier in the week to view the exhibition for art connoisseurs and petrolheads alike. From the polished intervention of metallic letters by Jenny Holzer on a V12 LMR to Andy Warhol’s fluid enamels on his M1, the artist’s touch transforms these already beautiful machines into priceless works of art on four wheels. The mobile museum is themed by art styles across all floors – the bold colours and shapes inject a vibrancy and sense of speed, which these works were initially designed for. The seventeenth Art Car by Jeff Koons - an M3 GT2 - is the last in this iconic series, digitally rendered in an explosion of colour, it appropriately culminates the journey in time of BMW’s patronage of contemporary art through a variety of mediums and technologies over more than three decades.
While it is not known what is next for BMW’s creative future, what is certain is that this year’s London Games have employed the most culture-fuelled agenda ever seen at an Olympics with a varied and innovative schedule of events that reiterate the focus of art, music and performance alongside sport during the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Having missed catching a sight of an Art Car at the BMW Welt Museum in Münich last year, it was the first time I have seen one in person and the whole experience of all seventeen models was a curatorial marvel encased within black tape screens that added a flair of minimal engineering for its design-conscious visitors amongst the classic CSis and CSLs. Due to the rarity of this unique collection's outing, it is a must-see in everyone's Olympic diary before its closure in two week's time. Below are a few photos from the my visit – sit back and enjoy the ride…
Jenny Holzer - V12 LMR, 1999
Frank Stella - 3.0 CSL, 1976
César Manrique - 730i, 1990
Andy Warhol - M1, 1979
Roy Lichtenstein - 320 CSi, 1977
Robert Rauschenberg - 635 CSi, 1986
David Hockney - 850 CSi, 1995
Esther Mahlangu - 525i, 1991
A.R. Penck - Z1, 1991
Jeff Koons - M3 GT2, 2010
For more information on this exhibition and other events from the Cultural Olympiad over the London 2012 Games visit London 2012 Festival.
ART DRIVE! The BMW Art Car Collection 1975-2010
21st July - 4th August 2012
NCP Great Eastern Street car park
NCP Great Eastern Street car park
London EC2A 3ER